Enhancing leadership skills to reduce occupational stress in prisons José Santos June 29, 2022

Enhancing leadership skills to reduce occupational stress in prisons

Prison officers, managing directors, and union representatives gathered to explore a transnational initiative aiming to develop leadership competencies in prisons. This training has the potential to mitigate stressful circumstances for staff, inmates, and their families.

As stated in Europe 2020’s strategy, Europe is facing a severe skills gap potentially hampering growth and employment in the future. The least-skilled workers, who are in the most urgent need to be upskilled for employment purposes, tend not to take part in organised training efforts. These training needs are especially significant in the case of prison facilities, as the challenges faced by the staff are truly unique.

Often, the correctional role faces a conflict when they attempt to reconcile their custodial responsibilities (i.e., maintaining security) and their treatment functions (i.e., facilitating the rehabilitation of inmates). These and other constraints, which are relatively specific to the prison environment, negatively affect the staff’s physical and mental health, causing high levels of anxiety, often escalating to burnout, and depression.

That’s why the LEADCOR project developed an innovative and integrated training curriculum and programme to reduce occupational stress in prisons. This initiative was in focus at an event in Lisbon that IPS_Innovative Prison Systems organised.

The LEADCOR International Final Conference was held at the VIP Executive Zurique Hotel in Lisbon, Portugal, on June 29th, 2022. The event gathered participants from Portugal, Germany, Romania, and Belgium, including prison officers, prisons’ managing directors, and union representatives.

Improving leadership allows the entire prison system to progress: prison administration, prison officers, inmates, and their families

The LEADCOR project aims to improve staff leadership skills by providing training materials and promoting a safe and prejudice-free learning environment. Through the development of these skills, it seeks to contribute to reducing tensions among prison key stakeholders, namely management, prison staff, inmates, and inmates’ families.

By decreasing occupational stress, the programme foresees significant savings in personnel budgets, as early retirements and absenteeism also decrease. Furthermore, while improving the quality of work with inmates, the initiative can ultimately enhance rehabilitation opportunities.

At the International Final Conference, the LEADCOR project consortium shared the progress achieved through the initiative. The project partners had the opportunity to explain and promote the developed training tools and materials directly to those who need them.

One of the presented learning tools was the “LEADCOR – Leadership Board Game”, created to complement the training sessions. The board game aims to enhance leadership competencies in the prison sector, namely emotional intelligence, time management, team management, communication, conflict management, motivation, and emotion management. In a play style inspired by the classic “Snakes and Ladders”, the game incorporates questions and scenarios to make the player reflect and answer promptly, generating debate among the participants.

The discussed topics also included the LEADCOR assessment tools, one for stress levels and a second for staff competencies. Participants left with a deep understanding of how LEADCOR can support prison leadership positions to guide and manage relations in the workplace.

Know more about this project


Leadership development for occupational stress reduction in correctional settings

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