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Probation/Parole Officer Psychological Well-Being: the Impact of Supervising Persons with Mental Health Needs [2018]

Although supervising persons with mental illness can pose special challenges for community parole/probation officers (PPOs), few studies have investigated whether the number of supervisees on an officer’s caseload increases risk for poor mental health for PPOs and whether this link is due to emotional exhaustion. Using statewide survey data from 798 PPOs, we examine whether the number of supervisees on an officer’s caseload with mental health problems is associated with depressive symptoms reported the PPOs and whether this relationship is mediated by emotional exhaustion. In addition, we evaluate the potential mitigating role of both mental health services received by supervisees and officer training in mental health in the relationship between the number of supervisees on an officer’s caseload with mental health problems and emotional exhaustion experienced by PPOs. Findings reveal that PPOs with more supervisees on their caseload report significantly higher levels of depressive symptoms and that this relationship is completely explained away by emotional exhaustion. Neither mental health services received by supervisees nor officer training in mental health mitigated the link between the number of supervisees on an officer’s caseload with mental health problems and officer emotional exhaustion. This study underscores the importance of the psychological well-being of those on parole/probation for the emotional and mental health of the officers who supervise them.

Mathew D. Gayman, Nicholas K. Powell, Mindy S. Bradley

American Journal of Criminal Justice, September 2018, Volume 43, Issue 3

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