Job demands, organizational justice, and emotional exhaustion in prison officers

Andrew Clements*, Gail Kinman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prison officers experience a number of occupational and organizational stressors, and are at considerable risk of burnout. There has been limited research examining the processes by which the demands officers experience impact on their burnout risk. Drawing on the job demands-resources model, we tested distributive justice perceptions as a mediator for the relationship between workload and violence with emotional exhaustion. We further tested whether supervisor-focused interactional justice perceptions would be associated with reduced emotional exhaustion via stress culture (i.e. a perceived ability to discuss stress-related problems with managers). UK prison officers (N = 1792) completed an online survey. Findings indicated that, while workload was associated with emotional exhaustion directly and via distributive justice, experiences of violence was only directly linked with emotional exhaustion. Interactional justice was significantly associated with emotional exhaustion via the ability to discuss stress-related problems, but the association was weak. Findings suggest positive manager-subordinate relationships are not sufficient to meaningfully enhance psychological wellbeing. Instead we highlight the need to manage officers’ workload.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-458
Number of pages18
JournalCriminal Justice Studies
Issue number4
Early online date9 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • Aggression
  • Burnout
  • Correctional staff
  • Organizational justice
  • Prison officers


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