Illinois DOC Debuts Corrections Wellness Course for Staff Families

By CN Staff

CARTERVILLE, Ill.—On Friday, the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) hosted its first ‘Corrections Wellness for Families’ class for adult family members of frontline employees in the southern region of Illinois. IDOC’s Staff Wellness Response Team (SWRT) presented the course to the family members from seven correctional facilities, who spent the day at John A. Logan College navigating how corrections work realities can impact family life alongside Greg Korando from Menard Correctional Center and James Hayes from Robinson Correctional Center. The course marks the first time a state correctional agency in the United States extended a staff wellness program to family members of frontline employees.

After the course, one participant said, “Correctional Family Wellness brings education on a very specific and real level. Something a family can visualize, hear, and integrate into their understanding. Also, something that prompts that family member to consider how they can best communicate and love this person. Awareness of the correctional work many families have long been estranged from. The Correctional Family Wellness training is a way of saying – you are no longer an ‘outsider’, we are doing this together.”

The 4-hour proprietary course, ‘Correctional Family Wellness – For Families’ presented information to adult family members about how correctional work realities can impact family life with suggestions for dealing with scenarios commonly experienced by correctional families. The interactive course is designed for adult family members of seasoned correctional employees and family members of new staff. Course topics covered the impact of the corrections work environment on employees, practical suggestions for adult correctional family members to support one another, managing job stress when it intrudes on home life, and the basics of effective self-care.

IDOC’s SWRT will also begin offering a new 6-hour proprietary course ‘Correctional Family Wellness – For Staff’ for new and seasoned correctional staff of all disciplines and job roles. This course builds on current SWRT courses, presenting staff with an overview of potential negative impacts on family members due to lifestyle changes and negative behavioral changes that a loved one working in correctional settings may undergo. The course also presents the fundamentals of effective strategies for addressing these challenges and introduces the basics of positive practices for family care and emotional closeness.

Expanding the family dynamic into wellness programming is part of IDOC’s continued efforts to emphasize the importance of self-care and develop a departmental culture that demonstrates staff wellness. In 2017, IDOC began planning a program to promote staff well-being, which later became the Staff Wellness Response Team. SWRT’s leadership, which includes line staff of various job titles, facilities, backgrounds, and experience levels, reached out to correctional departments in other states, first responders, law enforcement agencies, and mental health providers to learn about the successes and barriers to staff wellness initiatives to develop a framework for IDOC. Subsequently, IDOC created a full-time Staff Wellness Coordinator position to expand this progress into a sustainable and robust staff wellness initiative.

Currently, SWRT has 200 members throughout IDOC facilities along with three Staff Wellness Regional Coordinators to address the mental and emotional needs of staff. This highly trained team assists facilities following critical incidents and offers peer support through confidential referrals to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and AFSCME’s Personal Support Program (PSP). SWRT offers ‘Corrections Fatigue to Fulfillment’, a 10-hour voluntary course that analyzes the causes and signs of corrections fatigue and provides strategies for professional fulfillment and self-care, to current IDOC staff members and all incoming cadet classes.