Now that the hostage siege at an Arizona state prison has ended, one question is whether the corrections officers who were held will suffer long-term trauma. The Arizona Republic talked to experts, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former POW. He said the consequences for the officers may be worse than for those in combat.
McCain, who was held captive and tortured for six years during the Vietnam War after his plane was shot down, said, “I always recognized that (being taken hostage) was a possibility. When you’re in combat, you live with that possibility every day.” Corrections officers may not be prepared for such situations, he said.
Beverly Mirise, a clinical psychologist at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center, warned about debriefing the officers, saying that, “Sometimes with bad debriefing, you can do more harm than good.” She said that the guards must face post-traumatic stress disorder. Such ordeals can result in the Stockholm syndrome, named for four Swedes who became sympathetic to their captors after being held for six days in a bank vault.
Criminologist Jack Levin of the B. Rudnick Center on Violence at Northeastern University, said it is unlikely the corrections officers at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Lewis sympathized with their captors, both of whom are violent criminals housed in a high-security unit. They seized a watchtower Jan. 18 after a melee in a prison kitchen and took the officers hostage. The drama ended yesterday when the final officer was released and the two inmates surrendered. “It’s not like she didn’t know the living conditions there,” Levin said of the female officer, who was held the longest. “It’s not like she would have some kind of revelation, some kind of epiphany.”