Correctional officers (COs) are exposed to a number of occupational stressors, and their health declines early in their job tenure. Interventions designed to prevent early decline in CO health are limited. This article describes the development, implementation, and evaluation of a one-year peer health mentoring program (HMP) guided by Total Worker Health® principles and using a participatory action research to collectively address worker safety, health, and well-being of newly hired COs. The HMP aimed to provide new COs with emotional and tangible forms of support during their first year of employment, including peer coaching to prevent early decline in physical fitness and health. The development and implementation of the HMP occurred across five main steps: (1) participatory design focus groups with key stakeholders; (2) adaptation of an existing mentoring handbook and training methods; (3) development of mentor-mentee recruitment criteria and assignment; (4) designing assessment tools; and (5) the initiation of a mentor oversight committee consisting of union leadership, corrections management, and research staff. Correctional employee engagement in the design and implementation process proved to be efficacious in the implementation and adaptation of the program by staff. Support for the HMP remained high as program evaluation efforts continued.
Keywords: correctional workforce; health mentoring; occupational safety; total worker health; workplace wellness.