Workplace Violence

A summary paper for the partial fulfillment of the requirements for completion of the Pacific Union College Degree Completion Program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice Administration. Napa Valley College November, 1999 INTRODUCTION Preface This paper is intended to explore the issues of violence in the workplace. It does not recommend a specific course of action or purport to address all of the issues associated with the problem. It is my desire to examine particular elements of workplace violence with the idea that I may author a policy for my employer. Background Crime continues to be a controversial topic in American society. Debate regarding the cause of crime may be found in the media on any given day. What to do about crime is also the topic of much discussion. 5.5 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year’s end 1996. (U. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.) Many changes have taken place within the Department of Corrections in California during the 1990s. Most significantly, dwindling financial recourses have reshaped the priorities of the department. It cost $21,470 a year to house an inmate in a California state prison. (Inmate Costs, 1997-1998 p.1 Corrections: Public Safety, Public Service). There are currently about 161,033 inmates in California Prisons. Since staffing levels must remain more or less constant, it is inmate programs that suffer from lack of funding. Criminals sentenced to prison are under the custody of the Department of Corrections. In addition to fiscal pressure, the department is subject to political pressure at all levels. Public reaction to crime is responsible for the denial of weight yard and other recreational activities; “Three Strikes”, and the loss of conjugal visits. All place varying levels of stress upon inmates and staff. Nature of the Problem Violence is universally recognized as a pervasive part of contemporary American society and of our Nation’s past as well. Many of the attempts to understand the phenomenon have been made in response to specific situations, such as the lawlessness of the prohibition era, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the urban riots of the mid 1960’s. (Roth) I work for the California Department of Corrections. I am on a two-year assignment as the Employee Relations Officer. Many people understand the title to mean that I am to be an employee advocate. I am, but not for that reason. I work directly for the Warden. When I hear of the Warden’s “open door” policy I sometimes wince: Occasionally, I am the open door. I am often the employee’s first line of opportunity to vent frustrations. As the Employee Relations Officer, I supervise and coordinate the grievance procedure; participate in local employee negotiations, and oversee employee discipline. I experience first-hand the employee’s emotional aftermath of notification of discipline, failed negotiations, and disappointing grievance responses. During my 18 years of employment at San Quentin State Prison, there have been several instances of workplace violence committed by employees. This summary paper is intended to explore the ramifications of workplace violence. Many of the topics discussed in Human Resource Management are applicable to this exploration of workplace violence both in terms of explanation of the behavior and the effect upon employees. The California Department of Corrections currently does not have a statewide workplace violence policy, per se. Aspects of workplace violence are addressed in other forums. I received information the Department is currently formulating a policy, but the publishing date is not known. Without a statewide, or departmental, policy, it becomes incumbent upon each institution or facility within the department to address workplace violence individually. It is almost shocking to discover the department’s lack of a policy. I am also concerned individual policy’s may send varying messages and practices to employees. My initial thoughts and research regarding workplace violence centered around the idea of employee’s committing violence upon other employees while at work. While this aspect of workplace violence remains central to my analysis, most of the workplace violence in my employment stems from inmates committing violence upon employees. Since I work in a prison, I find it reasonable to expect a degree of violence committed by inmates upon staff and other inmates. Most of that type of behavior