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Day in the Life of a Correctional Officer!

August 23rd, 2020 day in the life of a correctional officer

Preparing to Become a Correctional Officer

Thinking of becoming a correctional officer?

Ever wondered what a day in the life of a correctional officer is like? There are over 400,000 correctional officers in the United States – all of whom are supervising more than 2 million inmates in state, county, and federal detention centers. To become a correctional officer in the US, candidates need to pass the police officer exam and undergo specialist training to cater to the unique needs of detention centers.

Requirements include:

  • Physical abilities: like police officers, correctional officers face a hands-on job and must be physically fit – both in terms of endurance as well as upper body strength. Physical requirements differ on an agency-by-agency basis, so contact your local correctional office to learn more about their standards.
  • Psychological: working as a correctional officer is not just physically demanding but also mentally demanding, too. It remains one of the most stressful jobs to hold in the United States. Candidates can expect to undergo intense psychological and mental evaluations to ensure that you are equipped with the ability to manage this level of stress.
  • Basic skills: candidates are expected to be at least 18-years old, be US citizens, and undergo visual and auditory tests to ensure that your vision and hearing is at or near normal. Candidates cannot apply to become correctional officers if they are older than 37-years. Reading comprehension and writing ability must meet a sufficient standard.
  • Advanced skills: candidates selected to become correctional officers must undergo additional training that is tailored to the unique needs of working in a detention center. The precise skills and duration of training depends upon which agency you are applying to.

Once you successfully pass the correctional officer exam and complete mandatory advanced training, you will then be hired to work in a detention center.

Below, we review many of the key duties that form the basis of a day in the life of a correctional officer.

Correctional Officer Duties

Many of the key duties of a correctional officer are similar to those performed by law enforcement officers.

Ultimately, the foundational function of a correctional officer is the same as a police officer – namely, to apprehend criminal activity and to keep other officers safe.

Detention centers, however, also come with unique responsibilities and duties that police officers are not trained to handle.

For instance:

  • Safely escorting inmates not only from cells but also to other designated locations – including court and medical centers.
  • Regularly conducting detailed inspections to ensure that inmates are compliant with the behavioral standards expected of them and that illicit contraband is not present. Any breach of conditions must be reported accordingly. These reports are important for parole officers to learn whether the inmate is justified to be released at an earlier time or not.
  • Where necessary, physically restrain aggressive inmates – often in tandem with another correctional officer. In cases where an inmate has been injured, first aid must be applied.
  • Patrolling the detention center is important, but correctional officers are also expected to patrol outer zones, too, to ensure that no contraband or communication is happening with the outside world, and that inmates are not attempting to escape.
  • Inward supplies to the detention center must be accurately recorded. Any supplies distributed to inmates must also be recorded.
  • Ongoing surveillance of inmates may be done either in person or via video surveillance. This is also necessary at times where inmate interaction occurs such as at mealtimes or other recreational activity.
  • Correctional officers also play an important role in rehabilitation. Not all inmates can be rehabilitated, but some are. Officers should note these cases and, where appropriate, to encourage the inmate to continue this path – as it is in their interests, the officer’s interest, and the wider community’s interest. Correctional officers work with parole officers and other rehabilitation staff to attempt to reduce the risk of recidivism.
  • Any suspect behavior should be reported to the supervisor in charge of the center.
  • Inmates must be safely escorted from their cells when they are due for release. Similarly, correctional officers must register and process new inmates and ensure they are adequately familiar with the detention center and the standards expected of them (as well as the punishments involved if they do not adhere to these standards).

A day in the life of a correctional officer is, then, an extremely broad and diverse one. Often two days are not the same.

Personal Commitments

Given the hive of activity in the center and given the randomness with which outbreaks of violence can occur, correctional officers must be constantly vigilant – not only for the safety of inmates but also the safety of themselves.

If you are thinking about becoming a correctional officer, it is worth bearing these risks and responsibilities in mind. However, if you meet the conditions – both physical and mental – and find this line of work rewarding, it may be a career worthy of serious consideration. You may even wish to contact your local detention center and ask if you can visit and shadow a correctional officer for part of the day. This will offer great insight as to whether you see yourself working in this profession and whether it is something you would happily wake up and perform each day.

Of course, there are family implications, too. Correctional officers work long hours – often irregular hours. You may be expected to work long overnight shifts and this kind of schedule may not be to your liking. However, it is something that you should consider – particularly if you have a family.

Passing the police officer exam is the first step. By first achieving this goal, you can then decide whether the life of a correctional officer is for you. At Police Test Study Guide, we have put together the complete online test prep solution to help you master the 2020 exam and make it through to the academy.

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