Research Proposal Paper for Free: Correctional Officers and Juveniles with Mental Illnesses

Published: 2022-03-24
Research Proposal Paper for Free: Correctional Officers and Juveniles with Mental Illnesses
Type of paper:  Research proposal
Categories:  Mental health Juvenile justice
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1691 words
15 min read

The correctional officers are often in contact with juvenile detainees for twenty four hour a day and, in the absence of mental health staff and clinicians during off hours, these officers are often required to deal with and handle detainees with mental health issues (Dvoskin & Spiers, 2009). Needless to say, this interaction between the correctional officer and the detainee is the most frequent and persistent interaction and the nature of this interaction determine the outcome of the inmates and detainees. If the correctional officer has a negative perception towards mental health issues among the incarcerated, the interaction would presumably be negative resulting in the extension of the mental health issues. Dvoskin and Spiers, (2009) assert that knowledge to handle mental health patients includes, "1) Counseling and psychotherapy-talking with inmates, 2) consultation-talking about inmates, 3) special housing, activities, and behavioral programs, and 4) medication" (p. 44). With this knowledge and positive perceptions towards mental health, the officers would be able to interact effectively with the inmates with mental health issues resulting in a more effective correctional justice system.

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Purpose/objective of the proposed study

This proposal observes an evident gap in knowledge of the effects of mental health knowledge and perception of correctional officers on the mental health outcomes of juveniles with mental illnesses. The origin of the gap stems from the fact that both issues have often been studied separately. Research on the knowledge and perceptions of correctional officers is directly related to personnel management and development (Gordon & Baker, 2017) while juvenile mental health issues have been more focused on by psychology and sociology studies (Aguilar-Carceles & Farrington, 2017). Due to the presence of the gap, there is increasing differences in the ways in which policies are developed to address the issues separately. One of those differences includes the promotion of institutionalization of juveniles with mental health issues as opposed to exposure to the general inmate populations. However, the proposal notes that with the continued strain on both systems; in the presence of different policies implemented on the two institutions with assumptions of the differences they bear, there is need for collaboration of the two systems. More specifically misdiagnosis of juvenile offenders and the use of mental health issues as a legal rationale to avoid incarceration, places both social systems at a cross-roads where collaboration is the only plausible option.

The study shall seek to understand the relationship between the mental health perceptions of correctional facility officers, and relate this with the mental health outcomes of incarcerated juveniles with mental health issues. The proposed study shall identify the prevalent perception themes among correctional officers in juvenile detention facilities. This shall allow for the establishment of the different value and beliefs of correctional officers both due to experience and knowledge regarding the issue of mental health. Further, the study shall seek to understand the different interactions between juvenile offenders and correctional facilities in general and assess whether this are different with interaction with juveniles with mental health concerns. This shall help to understand whether the correctional officers have a different way of treating healthy and unhealthy juveniles while they are interacting with them. Another important aspect of the study shall be the knowledge levels of the correctional facilities. The study shall identify and analyze whether the correctional officers undergo any mental health training whether formally or informally. This shall help in identifying whether the differences in perception of mental health is as a result of a skills gap that exits between the correctional officers and the needs of the populations they serve. Another purpose of the study shall be to investigate the differences in mental health outcomes of juveniles exposed to different correctional officers. In this, the study shall seek to understand whether the mental health outcomes have a causal relationship with the parameters measured on the part of the juvenile correctional officers.

Brief discussion of the background related to the study

The policies that are set up towards juvenile correction are to allow behavior change in delinquents in order to re-purpose and restructure the interactions between juveniles and the society. This is done with the objective of ensuring positive interactions between the society and juvenile detainees. The overall objective of correctional facilities is behavior change (Lee & McCrary, 2017). However, deviant behavior is often as a result of many factors including; psychological developmental issues, emotional development issues, and social development issues (Danforth, Connor, & Doerfler, 2016 ). Behavior change often focuses on the emotional and social developmental issues with psychological issues being referred to institutions that are specifically designed for mental health correction and treatment. With an increased exposure to mental health issues, most parents and members of the society find themselves in situations where the juvenile offender acts or behaves in a deviant manner due to mental health issues. However, while diagnosis of mental health issues is often accurate and timely done, there is still a large number of the juvenile population that is incarcerated based on deviant behavior without proper diagnosis of their mental health conditions.

For the at-risk population, the delinquent often finds themselves exposed to the detained population while having mental health issues. In the absence of proper diagnosis, the juvenile is bound to suffer the consequences of an imbalanced system as mental health services in juvenile facilities are structured for the correction of deviant behavior based on emotional and social development inefficiencies and not psychological development issues (Underwood & Washington, 2016). More so, the correctional officer training is often insufficient to address issues such as diagnosis, assessment, treatment, and counseling (Booth, et al., 2017). The correctional officer trained specifically on matters dealing with deviant behaviors would act in a way that is aligned to their training. In most cases, only informal training increases the effectiveness of the officers. However, such informal training is often for the purpose of career development and as a result, when such informally trained officers leave the facilities for better employment, the juvenile population is again left with correctional officers who are unequipped to handle a population with mental health issues.

Further, and as studies would often suggest, incarceration results in the development of mental health issues. This serves to insinuate that an otherwise mentally healthy individual, exposed to the conditions of detention would develop mental health problems (Green, et al., 2016). Therefore such effect is confounded when it comes to youth with preexisting psychological conditions, where these are detained in the absence of proper diagnosis. Instead of the correctional facility serving to correct the deviant behaviors caused by mental health issues, they act as risk factors for the development of further psychological issues. In this way, there arises a need to assess the skills and knowledge capabilities of correctional officers, especially with regards to underdiagnosed juveniles with mental issues, and develop policies and ways in which this capabilities gap could be addressed. It becomes prudent to note that research study in the area of professional development, for social service workers needs to be aligned to the social needs of the general and at-risk populations. This would allow for increased capabilities and efficiencies in the use of the juvenile justice system to address the concerns of the society.

Research has stressed on the need for institutionalization where mental health is concerned in order to allow the at-risk population to access the required treatment (Frank, Bose, & Schrobenhauser-Clonan, 2014). On the part of professional development of correctional officers, while there has been very limited recent study, the recurrent themes are leadership, understanding stresses of work, and burnout. This means that nothing prepares the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems for a misdiagnosed juvenile who ends up in such a structured correctional facility. In this, scholarship has failed to understand the implications of allowing "toughness" on juveniles with mental health issues. For instance, if an underdiagnosed teenager were to develop mental difficulties in the middle of the night, the procedure would be either to call the mental health professional for an emergency, or to wait until morning. This gap in accessing mental health treatment results in the continued development of further issues. However, this is often in a limited number of cases. Where the correctional officer is unaware of the condition of the patient, they may act aggressively towards the inmate with the assumptions that the attack is a manifestation of an emotional or social problem, which shall result in wrongful treatment of the condition. Based on this background and evident scholarly gap between the two highly interrelated but different fields of study, it serves to understand the point of intersection and how the intersection affects the at-risk population and how this can be addressed.

Specification of the hypothesis to be tested in the proposed study

Following on the purpose of the study, it serves that the study shall seek to understand the impact of mental health perceptions of correctional officers on the mental health outcomes of juveniles with mental health conditions. With this in mind, the study shall seek to identify the existence of a relationship between the perception and the outcomes. Further, the study shall seek to explain what determines the mental health outcomes of juveniles with mental health issues who have not been institutionalized, but rather who have been incarcerated with the general juvenile population. With this in mind, a hypothesis is developed that relies on the theoretical assumptions of interactionism between elements in the society and the development of individuals. The hypothesis developed states that; mental health perception of correctional officers is a significant factor in determining the health outcomes of juveniles with mental health issues.

Description of the sample/population

The interaction between correctional officers and juveniles points to a need to study two populations. The first population shall be the correctional officers. These are the members of the corrections and justice department that interact with inmates and incarcerated individuals. For this group, the most significant information would be their knowledge levels of mental health issues and their perception of mental health. The second group of individuals is the at risk population of juveniles with mental health issues who are incarcerated in the general population. These represent the target population for any policy changes that a successful study shall generate. The info...

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