It is well known that most prisons are places with a high stress level. Among both prison staff and prisoners this stress can manifest directly, such as in aggression, depression, unalertness, burn-out and stress-related illnesses, but also indirectly in addictions or deterioration of interpersonal relations. The staff in prisons is expected to work professionally, with a sense of responsibility and reliability and with a decent and humane attitude. Stressful working conditions, however, can undermine such well functioning. In extreme cases, they can also lead to a higher degree of absence among personnel, a factor that increases the pressure on the personnel that remains active. The effect of stress in our personal lives and in our work place is often underestimated.
Apart from “the natural stress level” which is characteristic of prisons, the common situation of overpopulation in many prisons in the world leads to extra stress and tension, both for overburdened prison staff and the prisoners themselves.
In many prisons the constitution of the population is changing rapidly and the big cultural and linguistic diversity brings with it new and specific challenges with regard to coexistence in a penitentiary institution.
In certain prisons one can also observe an increase in the number of prisoners with medical and psychological problems.
These challenges add to the problems of the harm resulting from the daily life in a penitentiary institution.
In addition, also the use of drugs in prisons is a point of serious attention.