Fifth Judicial District - Department of Correctional Services


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TITLE: Staff Victimization And Support Services


It is the policy of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services to develop and implement a program to provide assistance and intervention to employees and their families during and after times of personal and professional crises, to include a major emergency.


Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD): A formal, standardized process which allows and encourages staff involved in a critical/traumatic incident to discuss, in a supportive and confidential environment, their individual experiences and responses to these experiences. Trained professionals conduct the debriefing. The purpose is to allow open communications and sharing to assist in reducing the likelihood of long-term consequences, and provide referrals when professional assistance is needed. The Iowa Crisis Response Team (ICRT) is available upon request at 515-281-5044 through the Iowa Attorney General's Crime Victim Assistance Division. In some criminal cases, law enforcement statements must first be taken. The District Director shall decide when the debriefing should occur.

Defusing: An informal meeting immediately following a critical/traumatic incident with employees who were directly affected by the incident in order to provide information and assess any need for further mental health services. The Staff Victimization and Support Services Coordinator (SVSSC) will generally lead a defusing.

Director or District Director: Refers to the Director of the Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services.

Emergency Staff Services (ESS): A broad range of services designed to provide for the extraordinary needs of individuals affected by a critical incident or traumatic event. Services may include, but are not limited to, next of kin notification, group counseling, transportation assistance, lodging assistance, child care, media intermediary, and rehabilitation assistance.

Employee Assistance Program (EAP): A program designed to provide counseling referrals for employees who are experiencing problems that may affect their ability to perform their duties and responsibilities.

Initial Commander: Highest ranking individual at the community correction program during onset of emergency.

Initial Incident Report: A report to be submitted to the Director or designee at the time of the incident. A copy will also be submitted to DOC Office of Victim Services Program for statistical purposes. (See Iowa Department of Corrections Critical Incident Policy, SE-IV-22 Form 1)

Major Emergency: An emergency which is life threatening, may not be contained by on-duty staff and/or which may require the assistance of off-duty staff or outside personnel.

Peer Support Program (PSP): Is a process whereby co-workers (peer supporters), who are trained to recognize various symptoms and problems, assist their fellow officers through listening, understanding and providing appropriate referrals when necessary. Peer support programs may serve as early detection mechanisms to help staff deal with personal problems before they become more serious.

Staff Victimization Program (SVP): A team member will provide a folder of information on "Staff Victimization in Community Based Corrections" as well as any additional referrals for assistance in the community

Staff Victimization and Support Services (SVSS): Combined services available to and are comprised of Emergency Staff Services (ESS), Peer Support Program (PSP) and Staff Victimization Program (SVP).

Staff Victimization and Support Services Coordinator (SVSSC): Person in the District responsible for oversight of program goals, objectives and evaluation, including Emergency Staff Services, Staff Victimization, and Peer Support.

Staff Victimization and Support Services Team (SVSST): Team made up of staff volunteers that work under the SVSS Coordinator to provide Emergency, Staff Victimization, and Peer Support Program services.

Trauma: An injury or state of emotional shock induced by severe stress and precipitated by an intense, unusual, and/or emergency event.

Traumatic Incident: An incident that significantly affects one's life, perhaps causing feelings of total loss of control, fear of loss of limb or life, or fear of permanent change to one's integrity. A traumatic incident is often unexpected, unpredictable, or of sudden onset, and it may generate severe panic. Such incidents include, but are not limited to, the following: physical assault; sexual assault; death of a staff member, volunteer, close work associate, or offender; psychological assault or death threat; hostage or riot situation; natural disaster or fire; exposure to a potentially life-threatening disease; or witnessing of a suicide or an attempted suicide of a staff member, volunteer, close work associate, or offenders.

Victim Counselor: A person who is engaged in a crime victim center, is certified as a counselor by the crime victim center, and is under the control of a direct services supervisor of a crime victim center, whose primary purpose is the rendering of advice, counseling, and assistance to the victims of crime.


1. Objectives

The objectives of the Staff Victimization and Support Services (including Emergency Staff Services, Staff Victimization Program, and Peer Support Program) are to:

  1. Develop a plan in conjunction with this policy to provide an immediate, accessible and planned response to employees involved in a trauma-related incident. The District Director shall decide when to implement the SVSS and determine the level of services to be provided.
  2. Establish a Staff Victimization and Support Services Team of employees readily available on a daily/volunteer basis for the purpose of providing Emergency, Staff Victimization, or Peer Support services to employees involved in a serious or traumatic incident.
  3. Establish a post-trauma response team comprised of employees and volunteers within the Department who will be able to respond, when called upon, to critical incident situations, and will offer employees and their immediate families a means of dealing with the multitude of feelings associated with these situations.
  4. Assist and facilitate an employee's access to community resources, as needed, to enable return to duty at the earliest possible date. Provide immediate access to a community Victim Counselor for staff victims of sexual assault. If necessary call the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault for assistance at 515-244-7424.
  5. Promote confidentiality, trust, and allow appropriate anonymity for employees receiving support.
  6. Provide information about and referrals to supportive services for immediate family members of employees involved in traumatic incidents.
  7. Provide opportunities for employees who receive services and those providing services to offer feedback in order to assess the effectiveness of the ESS/SVP/PS programs.

2. Rules of Confidentiality

  1. The Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members are not authorized to disclose any of the information the affected employee(s) may give to anyone other than Staff Victimization and Support Services Team or agency management with a need to know. However, victimized staff will be told that there is no guarantee for any facts the employee may choose to disclose that may be violations of law or agency policy.
  2. Matters involving the following are not considered confidential;
    • Danger to self
    • Danger to others
    • Felonies as specified by the law
    • Misdemeanors as specified by the law
    • Child, spouse, and elder abuse
    • Violation of any Fifth Judicial District Department of Correctional Services policy
    • Where divulgence is requested by the individual involved.
  3. A general principle for team members to follow is to inform the person, prior to discussion, what the limitations and exceptions are regarding the information revealed. In those cases where a question or any questions regarding confidentiality arises, the Team Member should contact the SVSS Coordinator.

3. Coordinator of Staff Victimization and Support Services, including Emergency Staff Services, Staff Victimization Program, Peer Support

  1. Selection
    1. The District Director will designate an SVSS Coordinator and alternate for the Department.
    2. It is recommended that all candidates for the Coordinator position will, at a minimum, meet all criteria for ESS/SVP/PS positions, including training, and may have served as an ESS/SVP/or PS team member.
    3. The Coordinator position is voluntary.
  2. The SVSS Coordinator will be responsible for the following duties:
    1. Provide guidance and counsel to the District Director on matters regarding the Staff Victimization and Support Services.
    2. Develop and maintain a listing of support services that may be available in the event of a major emergency, or traumatic event. Develop resources to assist individuals when problem areas are identified.
    3. Provide staff victim a folder of information regarding "Staff Victimization in Corrections." The folders may be obtained from the SVSS Coordinators or Office of Victim Programs at the Iowa Department of Corrections' Central Office.
    4. Meet annually with other SVSS Coordinators to assess the program, and identify or develop appropriate training to help improve post-trauma response skills, personal communication skills on an ongoing basis and/or review programmatic goals.
    5. Designate and maintain a family briefing area for use in major emergencies.
    6. Work to promote awareness of the program throughout the Department, and to provide assistance and guidance to all program members.
    7. Ensure that all active program members have participated in initial training and refresher training, as needed and conducted.
    8. Generate, maintain, and distribute a list of the Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members and their telephone numbers and work site locations. A copy of this list should be kept in the Emergency Preparedness manual. The SVSS Coordinator/Staff Victimization and Support Services Team member's names should be posted in the staff break areas.
    9. Coordinate with the Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members in specific situations and make the final decision regarding the extent, location, and time of a defusing and need for ongoing peer support and follow-up services.
    10. Ensure that an Initial Incident Report is completed and sent to the District Director or designee and a copy sent to the Iowa Department of Corrections Central Office for statistical purposes. (See Iowa Department of Corrections Critical Incident Policy SE-IV-22 for Form 1)
    11. Provide statistical information and a summary of activities to the District Director on a monthly basis and a copy sent to the Iowa Department of Corrections Central Office for statistical purposes.
    12. Recruit and coordinate the screening of the Staff Victimization and Support Services Team applicants.
    13. Offer guidance to peer supporters when problems occur.
    14. Coordinate follow-up response of SVSS members when referrals are made.
  3. Training
    1. Coordinator
      1. Upon selection, the Coordinator shall participate in an initial 24-hours of training provided by the Iowa Corrections Training Center. Training will be designed to make the Coordinator familiar with available resources, and to develop the Coordinator's assessment and post-trauma intervention skills.
      2. The Coordinator will be given opportunities to receive additional training, and attend appropriate seminars and workshops in order to enhance her/his knowledge and skills. The Coordinator will be responsible for sharing the training with their team.
    2. Continuing educational and training opportunities will be provided, as needed, to Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members to ensure that they are aware of the most current research and resources relevant to the program. The Coordinator may provide the training.
  4. Removal/Withdrawal
    1. The following actions may result in the removal of a Coordinator/team member:
      • Failure to participate in meetings/trainings during the year.
      • Failure to follow established program guidelines.
      • Any misrepresentation of the program goals and objectives that may prove harmful to the overall program.
    2. Coordinator/team member participation is voluntary. He/she may withdraw at any time, without prejudice, by stating in writing a desire to do so, and submitting it to the District Director.

4. Staff Victimization and Support Services Team (SVSST)

  1. Selection
    1. All prospective SVSST members shall complete an application form that shall be made available at each agency work site. The application is for screening and selection per established guidelines and the selection process may include an interview. (See attached form I)
    2. The SVSST should reflect the diverse employee population of the work site.
    3. The SVSST selection criteria should include the following considerations:
      • Accessibility for team meetings, training programs and calls out to respond to victimized staff
      • Respect and trust of peers
      • Ability to maintain confidence
      • Maturity
      • Ability to work within established guidelines
      • Sensitivity to others and ability to listen
      • Previous experience and training relevant to critical incidents and trauma
      • Ability to work as a team member
    4. Once selected, each SVSST member shall participate in initial training, and refresher training as conducted and needed.
    5. Each SVSST member will be given a nametag that shall be worn during responses to a traumatic incident to ensure that they are identified as a team member.
    6. Each SVSST member shall serve as long as they are willing to follow the expectations of this role.
  2. Role and Responsibility of SVSST members
    1. The SVSST member shall participate in an initial training session (at least 24-hours) conducted upon selection by the Iowa Corrections Training Center. Training will be designed to develop the SVSST member's assessment and post-trauma intervention skills, and familiarize the team with available resources.
    2. When an employee experiences a traumatic incident, the employee should immediately notify his/her supervisor who, in turn, is to notify the SVSS Coordinator and District Director to determine the appropriate SVSS response.
    3. All initial requests for SVSS involvement shall be at the request of the affected employee or his/her District Director or supervisor.
    4. A SVSST member may be required to provide services to other work sites based upon need.
    5. The SVSST members should be prepared to act following any traumatic incident. When contacted, the SVSST member should immediately be relieved from duty (if necessary) to go to the aid of the affected employee, and remain until the situation is under control.
    6. The SVSST member shall maintain communication with the District Director regarding the affected employee's physical and emotional status, etc.
    7. Upon request of the employee or administration, the SVSST member may assist the affected employee with practical things to be done that the employee cannot or may not want to do. This may include helping with interventions and transportation, or making necessary phone calls.
    8. The SVSST member will coordinate the provision of notification of the traumatic incident to the affected employee's immediate family member(s), as designated on his/her Emergency Response Form, and schedule a follow-up contact to provide information about and referrals to supportive services for family members.
    9. The SVSST member should conduct a defusing as early as possible after the incident to provide information to the affected employee, and determine the need for further mental health services. All appropriate staff should be notified of the defusing.
    10. A Critical Incident Stress Debriefing (CISD) may occur within 24-72 hours of the event.
    11. Initial Incident Report forms should be filled out and forwarded to the District Director.
    12. The SVSST member should facilitate employee access to appropriate resources, such as: Human Resources, medical care, Employee Assistance Program, workers compensation, Crime Victims Compensation, community-based victim assistance programs, etc. and be available to the individual for additional follow up support.
    13. The roles and responsibilities of the SVSS team members will be outlined and maintained in an operational handbook and provided to all SVSS team members.
  3. Training for Staff Victimization and Support Team Members:
    1. A minimum of 24-hours of initial training is required for all Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members and will be provided by the Iowa Corrections Training Center and will include, but not be limited to, the following topics:
      • Understanding the dynamics of sexual assault.
      • Corrections and the scope of workplace violence
      • Characteristics of traumatic events
      • Mental health issues relevant to trauma
      • Overview of the effects of victimization
      • Impact of traumatic incidents on affected staff and the Department
      • Overview of program components and services
      • Members' roles and responsibilities
      • Confidentiality
      • Crisis intervention
      • Peer support
      • Defusing/Debriefings
      • Return-to-work programs and services
      • Coordinating post-trauma response with EAP, Office of Victim Services, other Department resources
      • Information and referrals to mental health services
      • Information and referrals to state and community-based victim services programs
      • Information about victims' rights and relevant services
      • Review of the Department's policies and protocols for preparing and responding to traumatic incidents

5. Scope of Supportive Services Provided by the SVSST

6. Activating SVSS

  1. Major Emergency
    1. In the event of a major emergency, the SVSS Coordinator or designee shall establish contact with the command post, as soon as possible. The Coordinator shall implement the emergency post orders or policies for SVSS Coordinator.
    2. The SVSS Coordinator, if necessary, shall ensure that the designated family briefing area is made available and provided with amenities as needed.
  2. Other Than Major Emergency
    1. The decision to implement SVSS for events other than major emergency and the level of services to be provided shall be determined by the District Director.
    2. Traumatic Event
      1. Supervisors are encouraged to assess the impact of a traumatic event on an employee or group of employees and report to the SVSS Coordinator as soon as possible.
      2. The SVSS Coordinator should encourage employees involved in a traumatic event to contact the Employee Assistance Program and request services under this program for themselves or family members.
      3. Should several staff be affected by a traumatic event, the District Director may consider requesting that EAP staff meet with employees to reduce stress generated by such events.
      4. In all cases, the District Director shall determine the extent of services provided to employees and their families involved in a traumatic event.
    3. Traumatic Incident Response System
      1. In the event that several persons are experiencing physical, psychological, or emotional effects following a traumatic incident, the District Director may initiate a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.
      2. Traumatic incidents shall be reported immediately to the District Director. Any doubt as to reporting incidents of this nature should be resolved in favor of reporting.
      3. The SVSS Coordinator and District Director shall assess the incident to determine the appropriate SVSS response. Factors to consider include:
        1. Severity and nature of incident
        2. Number of individuals involved
        3. Noticeable changes in employee's behavior
      4. When the District Director determines that a Critical Incident Stress Debriefing is necessary, he/she shall notify the Iowa Crisis Response Team (515-281-5044) or Employee and Family Resources (515-244-2297).
      5. Debriefing will generally take place within 24-72 hours of the event. Every attempt shall be made to accommodate scheduling realities.
      6. All staff involved in the incident, whether or not they experience any effects, is encouraged to participate in the Critical Incident Stress Debriefing.
      7. Debriefing proceedings shall be considered confidential and no visual, written, or audio recordings shall be allowed.
      8. Medical/psychological screening by a mental health care provider (ex: EAP approved mental health provider, etc.) will be recommended for serious assault victims, hostages, individuals involved in the use of force resulting in serious injury or death to another, and all others who may have been subjected to physical or psychological trauma during a major emergency.
    4. Immediate Actions Following a Traumatic Incident:
      1. When an employee is involved in a work-related traumatic incident, which results in a fatality or serious injury, the following procedures should be followed:
        1. Separate the involved employee from the scene as soon as possible and assign a Peer Supporter.
        2. Provide the employee time to compose themselves and collect their thoughts before a preliminary investigation begins.
        3. Remind the employee not to discuss the incident with anyone except investigative personnel, family, facility psychologist or others with an official need to know.
        4. With the consent of the affected employee, the SVSS Coordinator shall assign staff to contact family and notify them of the incident. If at all possible, notifications should be done in person.
      2. The SVSS Coordinator shall coordinate ongoing contact with the staff member/family to see what assistance the facility might provide.
      3. The SVSS Coordinator shall immediately notify the District Director or designee upon suspicion that a criminal act has occurred.

7. Consultation Services with Mental Health Professional

  1. A mental health professional will be made available by the District Director to the SVSS Coordinator for consultation.
  2. Staff Victimization and Support Services Team members should be aware of their personal limitations and should seek consultation from a mental health professional when determining when to disqualify herself/himself from working with individuals who have problems for which they have not been trained or about which they may have strong personal beliefs.
  3. Referral Procedures:
    1. Employees who demonstrate symptoms of personal or professional crisis may be referred to the SVSS Coordinator for evaluation and referral for outside assistance. Participation in counseling by the employee, however, is strictly voluntary and should be considered therapeutic and in the best interest of the individual's well being.
    2. The Department will not consider referrals as disciplinary action, nor will any bias be held against any employee who may be referred for treatment.
  4. Voluntary Treatment/Access:
    1. Employees are encouraged to voluntarily seek information or access to the range of the SVSS programs.
    2. All contacts to the Peer Support program shall be followed up by peer supporters to ensure the employees' progress/needs.
  5. An individual's decision to seek Staff Victimization and Support Services shall be voluntary.

8. In all cases where the Director or designee believe that a criminal act has occurred, an investigation shall be initiated or the matter shall be referred to a law enforcement agency as soon as possible.

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