The Impact of Individual Factors, Job Characteristics, and Organizational Variables on Job Stress and Job Satisfaction Among Community Corrections Staff

AuthorGayle Rhineberger-Dunn,Kristin Y. Mack
Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1177/0734016820927077
Subject MatterArticles
CJR927077 464..483 Article
Criminal Justice Review
2020, Vol. 45(4) 464-483
The Impact of Individual
ª 2020 Georgia State University
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Factors, Job Characteristics,
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DOI: 10.1177/0734016820927077
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and Organizational Variables
on Job Stress and Job
Satisfaction Among
Community Corrections Staff
Gayle Rhineberger-Dunn1
and Kristin Y. Mack1
Abstract
Community corrections (e.g., probation, parole, halfway houses) is the largest correctional place-
ment in the United States, yet little research assesses community corrections staff experiences with
job stress and job satisfaction. The purpose of this article is to extend the literature on community
corrections officers by assessing the influence of individual factors, job characteristics, and organi-
zational variables on both job stress and job satisfaction. In general, we found that the influence of
individual factors and job characteristics differed for job stress compared to job satisfaction. Simi-
larly, the impact of organizational factors on these outcomes also differed, although this was con-
trary to our expectations. Finally, job stress had a negative effect on job satisfaction and
organizational factors had a larger impact on both job stress and job satisfaction, compared to
individual and job characteristics. Our results provide a number of possible areas for departments to
focus on in order to reduce job stress and increase job satisfaction among probation/parole and
residential officers.
Keywords
community corrections, probation officers, job stress, job satisfaction
Community corrections (e.g., probation, parole, halfway houses) is the largest correctional place-
ment in the United States, with 4.7 million offenders (Carson & Anderson, 2016), compared to just
1.5 million for institutional corrections (Kaeble et al., 2015). In addition to the larger placement,
community corrections staff typically supervise offenders who are able to live and engage in the
1 Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Gayle Rhineberger-Dunn, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology, University of Northern Iowa, 1227
West 27th Street, Cedar Falls, IA 50614, USA.
Email: gayle.rhineberger@uni.edu

Rhineberger-Dunn and Mack
465
community to varying degrees. Probation officers work with offenders who are serving a sentence of
probation. These offenders live in the community but must report to a probation officer a set number
of times a month to make sure they are following the rules and conditions of their probation, as well
as meeting rehabilitation expectations. Parole officers are typically responsible for working with
offenders who have been released early from prison to the community or to a halfway house. As part
of this, they focus on rehabilitation goals in addition to making sure parolees are adhering to the rules
and conditions of their parole. Residential officers, however, are responsible for maintaining the
safety and security of work-release facilities or halfway houses for offenders on parole who are
deemed not yet ready to live on their own out in the community. Some of the offenders in these
facilities may be probationers who have violated probation conditions as well as parolees who are
not ready to be in the community full time.
Although the job responsibilities of probation, parole, and residential officers differ significantly
from correctional officers, particularly with the focus on rehabilitation, it is nonetheless a stressful
and potentially dangerous work environment (Whitehead & Lindquist, 1985). Furthermore, while
contact with offenders (nonviolent or violent) may not itself result in negative outcomes for staff
members, perceptions of the dangerousness of the work environment may influence workplace
outcomes such as job stress (Hartley et al., 2013; Paoline et al., 2015), which in turn may lead to
low job satisfaction. Given the direct implications for the staff members themselves, as well as the
potential impact on a greater number of actual offenders in community corrections, it is surprising
that relatively little literature exists on the work experiences of community corrections staff com-
pared to that of institutional corrections officers.
One aspect of work experiences that has received some attention in the community corrections
literature is job stress. Studies have looked at both the impact of job stress on emotional exhaustion/
burnout (Gayman & Bradley, 2013) and turnover intention (thinking about quitting or planning to
quit; Lee, Joo, & Johnson, 2009; Simmons et al., 1997), as well as the actual determinants of job
stress among probation officers (Slate et al., 2003; Wells et al., 2006, Whitehead & Lindquist, 1985).
However, research has not yet examined the influence of job stress on residential officers nor has it
further assessed the impact of job stress on job satisfaction among probation, parole, or residential
officers. This is a significant oversight since job stress has consistently been found to predict job
satisfaction for institutional correctional officers (Byrd et al., 2000; Castle, 2008; Cheeseman &
Downey, 2012; Hogan et al., 2009; Lambert, 2004; Lambert & Paoline, 2008; Lambert et al., 2007;
Lee, Joo, & Johnson, 2009).
Lambert and Paoline (2008) and Paoline et al. (2015) simultaneously considered the influence of
individual factors, job characteristics, and organizational variables on job stress and job satisfaction
among institutional correctional officers and found that some of the same factors predicted both
outcomes. Additionally, they considered the relative impact of each set of variables (individual, job,
and organization) on job stress. Similar to Van Voorhis et al. (1991), Paoline et al. (2015), and
Getahun et al. (2008), they found that organizational variables had a greater impact than either of the
other two groups (individual or job characteristics) of variables (Lambert & Paoline, 2008).
Job satisfaction itself, however, has only been minimally studied for community corrections staff,
at least among probation officers. The few studies that have been conducted have analyzed the
effects of job satisfaction on probation officer turnover intention (Lee, Phelps, & Beto, 2009;
Simmons et al., 1997) and job stress (Simmons et al., 1997; Slate et al., 2003; Wells et al.,
2006). But similar to the literature on job stress, no studies have yet examined job satisfaction
among residential officers. Also, very few researchers have sought to determine the factors that
predict job satisfaction among probation officers, with one exception. In their study of how job stress
and job satisfaction impacted turnover intention, Simmons et al. (1997) also analyzed predictors of
job stress and job satisfaction. They found that low job satisfaction led to higher stress and that
higher stress led to lower job satisfaction.

466
Criminal Justice Review 45(4)
What is clearly missing from this body of literature is an assessment of the predictors of job
satisfaction and job stress for both probation/parole and residential officers. Very little literature
exists on predictors of job satisfaction for probation and parole officers, and no literature currently
exists on the antecedents of either job stress or job satisfaction for residential officers. Further,
although studies on institutional corrections officers have found that organizational variables have a
stronger impact on job stress and job satisfaction than either individual or job characteristics
(Lambert & Paoline, 2008; Paoline et al., 2015), it has not yet been determined which category
of variables have the strongest impact on either of these workplace outcomes for probation/parole
and residential officers.
The purpose of this article is to extend the literature on community corrections officers by
assessing the influence of individual factors, job characteristics, and organizational variables on
both job stress and job satisfaction among community corrections staff. Following Lambert and
Paoline (2008), we first consider the overall effects of individual, organizational, and job charac-
teristic variables on job stress and job satisfaction, with job stress as a potential predictor of job
satisfaction. Then we examine the influence of each set of variables (i.e., individual, job, and
organizational) separate from the other two sets to determine the relative impact of each group of
variables. As background for the present study, we turn first to a discussion of the empirical job
stress and job satisfaction literature.
Literature Review
Job Stress
The first discussion of job stress among community corrections staff appears to be from the early
1980s (Whitehead, 1981). However, Whitehead (1981) used the terms job stress and burnout inter-
changeably, and the study was primarily focused on burnout as opposed to what is now considered to
be job stress. Subsequent research using the Maslach Burnout Inventory (Maslach, 1982) has found
that these two concepts are distinct and that job stress is actually a determinant of burnout (Maslach
& Jackson, 1981). In the more recent community corrections and institutional corrections literature,
job stress and burnout have been treated as two different job-related experiences. As a distinct
concept “job stress is typically considered to be the psychological feeling of anxiety, tension, and
strain from the job” (Lambert et al., 2015, p. 399, referencing Van Voorhis et...

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