Date of Conferral





Human Services


Tina Jaeckle


Increasingly, research has been conducted on the penal system, yet few researchers have focused on correctional staff. Due to the nature of their work, correctional officers (COs) experience a high degree of stress that is inmate related, occupational, organizational, and psycho–social. The purpose of this generic qualitative study was to explore the work experiences of COs in rural correctional facilities in Alaska and to learn how correctional staff perceive and mitigate work-related stress stemming from interpersonal conflict. The theoretical framework for this study was Lazarus and Folkman’s transactional theory of stress and coping. Data were collected using semistructured interviews conducted with 12 participants who were current and former COs. Participants were recruited via a recruitment flyer posted on social media and disseminated by the Alaska Correctional Officer Association and the Alaska Peace Officer Association. The collected data were coded and categorized using Colaizzi’s seven-step analysis process. The analysis revealed three main themes: (a) personal characteristics, (b) interpersonal dynamics, and (c) relationship with the administration. The findings of this research indicate that to mitigate interpersonal conflict among COs, the Department of Corrections will need to transform the current work culture, which allows for conflicts to occur. Further, the findings reflect that COs do not feel supported by their administration. Findings from this study have the potential to facilitate positive social change by bringing awareness to the challenges faced by COs, including increased need for transformation in workplace policies, creating an environment free of interpersonal conflict, and decreasing levels of stress experienced by staff.