Correctional officers are responsible for guarding inmates inside and outside prisons in the local, state, and federal prisons. They ensure prisoners follow prison rules, look after their needs, and escort them when moving to various areas within the facility. Correctional officers also patrol prison grounds, cells or buildings; check safety standards; guard against possible disturbances, and prevent prisoners from escaping.
Correctional officers oversee arrested individuals who are waiting for their trial dates in jails, reformatory institutions, penitentiary and other types of prisons. They maintain security inside the prison and observe the conduct and behavior of inmates to prevent disturbances and escapes, and maintain order and ensure safety among inmates by ensuring everyone inside the premises follow rules at all times. They also inspect locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates for tampering; search inmates and cells for contraband articles; direct inmates during work assignments; patrol areas for evidence of forbidden activities, breach of regulations, and unacceptable attitude of prisoners.
Education and Training Requirements
Many correctional facilities require officers to have postsecondary training in psychology, criminology, or related areas of study, and at least one or two years of experience in correction or other related field. Applicants of a federal facility are required to have at least two years of college or military experience. Training for correctional officers vary, from the special academy instruction provided by the federal government, informal, on-the-job training provided by local government, to certification programs which include self-defense, weapons use, safety procedures, and emergency medical techniques.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements
Correctional officers are required to have good health, physical strength, excellent coordination and reflex, psychological aptitude to handle stress, sound judgment, and the ability to communicate clearly both verbally and in writing. They must also be able handle volatile situations without resorting to physical force, anticipate and defuse any potentially dangerous situations, and work efficiently in a crowded, noisy, poorly ventilated environment.
Correctional officers usually work eight-hour shifts and forty-hour work weeks, with mandatory weekend and holiday shifts. The working conditions of officers stationed indoors mostly depend on the state of the facility, while officers assigned to patrol the grounds or guard external gates are exposed to weather conditions. With the inherent dangers in this line of work, there is a high rate of physical, though usually non-fatal injuries.
The salary of a correctional officer depends largely on the level of the facility, but may range from as low as $25,000 on local prisons to $55,000 and above in federal prisons. The median annual salary of a correctional officer is around $30,000 and $50,000 for supervisors.