Panic attacks and 20-hour workdays: Philly correctional officers quitting in droves…

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When Heather Malloy could not face another 16-hour workday at the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, she started paying a coworker $20 per shift to take her mandatory overtime assignments.

And when her adult son commented on her drinking alone at the end of yet another white-knuckled, understaffed shift, that’s when she finally decided to quit.

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In July, after 18 years as a correctional officer, Malloy joined an exodus of 25 workers each month who have been leaving jobs at the city jail complex in Northeast Philadelphia during the pandemic. Some, like her, were midcareer workers who had envisioned staying on through retirement. They quit, they told The Inquirer, amid what they described as a mounting mental-health and public safety crisis.

Several described experiencing panic attacks on the job, and said they had begun taking prescription antianxiety medications. Others described physical illness they believed resulted from the stress of long hours and unsafe staffing levels.


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