Resources

Learn more about the police test
and becoming a police officer
with our extensive resources.

Did You Know?

There are more than 3,000 sheriff’s offices throughout the United States.

A sheriff’s office is usually organized at the county level and is directed by a sheriff, who is typically an elected official.

Correctional Officer Jobs

correctional officer jobs

What do correctional officers do?

Correctional officer jobs form the professional backbone of our prison systems.

The responsibility of the correctional officer is enormous. He is charged with the duty of overseeing the safe running of the prison service and to manage prisoners under his watch. Officers not only manage convicted prisoners, but also prisoners who are awaiting trial.

Correctional officer jobs in the United States involve the following 6 core duties:

  • Supervision of convicted criminals in the prison service
  • Where possible, assist in the rehabilitation of prisoners to reduce recidivism (the rate at which prisoners re-offend once released from prison)
  • Inspect prison facilities to ensure that the required standards are met
  • Search prisoners in cases where illegal contraband is suspected
  • Defusing tensions between rival inmates
  • Issuing reports to parole on prisoner conduct throughout their sentence

In short, correctional officers maintain the security of the prison service – both for themselves and for other inmates within the prison who may also be the target of violence.

As of 2016, there were 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States. To aid in the management of the prison service, there are over 400,000 correctional officers serving in county, state, and federal detention facilities throughout the country.

Given these statistics, it is perhaps no surprise that correctional officers are a sought-after specialty within law enforcement and require expert training to handle what are often unique and highly dangerous situations.

Inspection plays an important role in correctional officer jobs. Here are 5 examples of where intense inspections are required:

  • To locate contraband, such as illicit substances or drugs
  • To detect any latent tension between prisoners and act upon it
  • To review cells to ensure they meet the prescribed sanitary standards
  • To determine if there are any potential fire hazards within the prison
  • To inspect high-risk zones – such as door integrity, window grills, and locks to establish whether any damage or intentional tampering has taken place

Management of the Prison Population

Correctional officer jobs are, as we have alluded to above, also about managing the prison population. One of the core functions of incarceration is to try and rehabilitate prisoners away from the criminal lifestyle. Of course, not everyone can be rehabilitated. But some can, and much effort goes into identifying those inmates who are most likely to respond to treatment.

The correctional officer is one part of a wider team to assist that process. They work with inmates to establish their degree of compliance and contrition. Those that act in accordance with the rules and who do not cause trouble may be identified by the officer as a viable candidate for rehabilitation. Correctional officers keep reports on inmates – and these reports are important not only for the purposes of identifying subjects fit for rehab, but also to inform parole officers of how inmates have behaved whilst in prison.

Not all correctional facilities are the same. Some inmates are classified as high-risk, and so require more intense invigilation. These detention centers are equipped with advanced security measures to guarantee the safety not only of the prison staff, but also the public too. Although rare, there have been instances where inmates manage to escape incarceration. Correctional officer jobs invariably involve strong communication skills. Officers may be armed or unarmed, depending on the situation they must face, and the degree of personal risk involved. CCTV cameras and other detection equipment assist with their management goals.

Conflict Resolution

Correctional officer jobs are an occupational hazard that involves dealing with some of the most dangerous members of society – many of whom have no problem resorting to either violence or the threat of death to another inmate or officer. Not only this, but each year correctional officers are exposed to contagious diseases.

Correctional officers are trained to handle these often-delicate situations. As with police officers, correctional officers are obliged to adhere to the broad principles of the force continuum – namely, that officers should discharge a proportionate use of force depending on the risk of life to either themselves or to others. Furthermore, correctional officers may resort to less fatal means – such as handcuffing prisoners and escorting them to other facilities in the building.

Correctional officers also need to handle conflict resolution. Many inmates collide, and it’s one of the duties of the correctional officer to de-escalate tensions when and as they arise.

In this way, correctional officer jobs are about both handling conflict and its opposite – conflict resolution. Officers are intensely trained to handle these difficult and often fatal situations. Officers typically work an 8-hour shift, 5-days per week, on a rotating basis.

How to Become a Correctional Officer

Qualifications vary on a state-by-state basis. Typically, applicants are required to have a high school diploma, but many now expect applicants to hold college education or to have some relevant work experience. Correctional officers must be 18-21 years old and applicants must have US citizenship. For federal positions, applicants must apply before they turn 37-years old. Once you have passed the foundation correctional officer exam, candidates attend the academy where they receive formal training about the correctional officer jobs and duties they are expected to undertake.

Candidates who seek to become a correctional officer should have the following skills:

  • Teamwork and strong interpersonal skills
  • An ability to deal with highly charged, conflict-oriented scenarios
  • Physically strong
  • Resourceful, alert officers who act smart and calm under pressure
  • An ability to control one’s emotions; to be self-controlled/disciplined
  • Excellent judgment

Salary

Starting correctional officer jobs can expect to receive a median salary of approximately $42,000 – rising with experience and responsibility. The lowest 10% of officers earned $28,000, whereas the highest 10% earned more than $70,000.

Employment prospects for correctional officer jobs remain high.

Pass the 2020
Correctional Officer Exam

The fastest way to prepare for the exam and get hired.