Do you love giving back to your community? Are you seeking for a career that would enable you to contribute to the neighborhood’s safety? If yes, you may want to think about becoming a prison officer. Corrections officers, often known as “correctional officers,” are employed by local, state, and federal governments. Learn how to become a corrections officer and what to anticipate from a regular workday by exploring our comprehensive career information.
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What is a Correctional Officer?
In addition to working in prisons, jails, reformatories, and penitentiaries, correctional officers, also referred to as detention officers, may also work in courtrooms or for the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They are responsible for supervising, securing, and maintaining control over people who have been arrested and are detained pending trial.
What Does a Correctional Officer Do?
Correctional officers are crucial to the upkeep of law and order, the protection of personnel and inmates, and the efficient administration of correctional facilities. They need to be physically active, have good interpersonal skills, have good judgment, and be able to manage stressful situations professionally in order to do their jobs.
Depending on the facility and jurisdiction, a correctional officer’s duties and responsibilities may change. However, the following are some typical duties related to the position:
- Security and supervision: By keeping an eye on inmates’ activities, doing routine patrols, and enforcing the law, correctional personnel are in charge of preserving the facility’s security. They must be watchful in seeing and stopping any potential dangers, such as violence, escapes, or smuggling of illegal goods.
- Inmate Management: Correctional officials are in charge of maintaining control and custody of inmates. To check for adherence to facility policies and find any prohibited objects, they perform searches of cells, people, and communal spaces. Additionally, they keep order at meals, recreation, and other activities, observe inmate behavior, and become involved in disputes or disruptions to protect everyone.
- Safety and emergency response: Correctional guards must be equipped to deal with a variety of situations that require emergency action, including fights, fires, medical issues, and natural catastrophes. To manage these circumstances skillfully and reduce harm to staff and inmates, they receive training in crisis intervention techniques, first aid, and self-defense.
- Maintaining accurate and thorough records of inmate activities, disciplinary actions, incident reports, and other documents relevant to their tasks is the responsibility of correctional personnel. This data is necessary for administrative tasks, legal processes, and making sure the criminal justice system is transparent and accountable.
- Support and Rehabilitation: Some correctional officials take part in rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives. To help offenders build skills, deal with behavioral challenges, and get ready for their eventual release back into society, they might help provide educational programs, vocational training, counseling services, and drug abuse treatment.
- Writing Reports and Giving Testimony: Writing reports outlining incidents, disciplinary actions, and any unexpected occurrences within the facility is a common task for correctional personnel. Additionally, they might be asked to provide testimony in court about their findings or deeds in particular situations.
Types of Correctional Officer
Within the penal system, there are different kinds of correctional officials, each with unique functions and responsibilities.
- Custody Officers: The most prevalent category of correctional personnel is that of the custody officer. They are in charge of maintaining the facility’s prisoners’ daily custody and security. They are responsible for doing security checks, keeping an eye on prisoners’ activities, upholding the law, and handling emergencies and disturbances.
- Transportation Officers: Transportation officers are in charge of accompanying prisoners to and from correctional facilities. They make ensuring that prisoners are transported in a safe and secure manner whether attending court hearings, doctor appointments, moving between facilities, or engaging in other external movements. Throughout the transit procedure, transportation personnel must maintain rigorous control and security.
- Classification Officers: Classification officers evaluate inmates and allocate them to the proper housing and programs based on their findings. To choose the best location, they consider various aspects like the inmate’s criminal history, behavior, medical requirements, and security hazards. Classification officers are essential to keeping the prison in order and controlling the inmate population.
- Training Officers: These professionals are in charge of educating and training newly hired correctional officers. They create and deliver training programs that cover a range of topics related to working in corrections, such as security protocols, managing inmates, crisis intervention, and legal requirements. Training officers make sure that new hires have the knowledge and skills they need to carry out their tasks efficiently and securely.
- Specialized Units Officers: In correctional facilities, there are specialized units that call for officers with a certain set of abilities and education. The K-9 unit, tactical response team, investigative unit, or gang intelligence unit are some examples of these units. The officers who are assigned to these specialist units may have more specialized responsibilities and get additional training.
- Reintegration and Rehabilitation Officer: Some correctional facilities include officers supporting reintegration and rehabilitation of convicts. To assist offenders in preparing for a smooth transition back into society, these officers may offer counseling, educational opportunities, job training, and community resource coordination.
How to Become a Corrections Officer
Consider discussing your career goals with your high school guidance counselor if you’re interested in learning more about how to become a prison officer. Some relevant courses, such an introduction to criminal justice, may be available at your school. Future correctional officers should take communications lessons as it is essential to understand how to defuse difficult situations and settle disputes verbally. Starting to work on enhancing your physical fitness is also an excellent idea.
In order to do their tasks successfully, correctional officers must be physically fit and have a reasonable amount of strength. If you haven’t already, think about joining one or more of your school’s sports teams. You might also want to spend some of your free time doing self-defense classes. In the event that you decide to continue on as a trainee correctional officer, you will attend self-defense lessons at the school. But it never hurts to brush up on the fundamentals first.
Academic Prerequisites for Corrections Officers
There are several academic prerequisites to become a prison officer. Every jurisdiction demands a minimum high school diploma. Although relevant experience (such as military service with an honorable discharge) may occasionally be acceptable in place of a bachelor’s degree, federal agencies normally need it. Even though it is not a required requirement, a bachelor’s degree is highly advised for anyone interested in a career in criminal justice. The importance of a college degree cannot be overstated.
The likelihood that individuals with college degrees will be given preference over those without is, arguably, the most significant factor. A bachelor’s degree can also help you pursue prospects for promotion later in your career, such those in supervisory roles. Even if you don’t envision yourself working in management one day, a college degree is still a very important tool.
Earn a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice
A criminal justice or justice studies bachelor’s degree is the most appropriate educational attainment for a prospective correctional officer. Gaining a solid understanding of constitutional law, statutory law, the functions and procedures of law enforcement agencies, the correctional system, and the court systems is possible with a degree in criminal justice. You might also study current issues in criminal justice, such cybercrime, depending on the school.
You could also study the following subjects:
- The use of data and research to create practical answers to problems that arise in the criminal justice field
- The investigation of community dangers that are natural, unintentional, and caused by humans, as well as how to address those problems
- The goals, tactics, and interorganizational connections of correctional agencies
- Professional ethics and ethical standards in the realm of criminal justice
Anyone interested in a career in criminal justice would be well to pursue a degree in criminal justice or justice studies. Even if you ultimately decide that a career as a correctional officer isn’t the best fit for you, having this academic achievement may allow you to pursue other alternatives, such as private security or law school.
The Non-Academic Requirements must be met.
Each state creates its own requirements for potential correctional guards. However, there is typically a minimum age restriction for candidates that spans from 18 to 21 years old. A polygraph test and fingerprinting are also part of the long and thorough background investigation you may anticipate. Criminal past or a history of drug misuse are usual exclusion criteria for candidates. A person may not be eligible to apply if they have certain medical issues. You need to have a reasonable level of physical fitness, and possibly show that you don’t have any significant obligations.
A psychological examination will probably be required to evaluate your suitability for service. There may be a residency requirement, and you must be able to pass the civil service exam. A conviction for domestic abuse, a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces, or a termination from employment that exhibits unethical behavior or moral character are just a few of the conditions that can prevent someone from being accepted into the training program.
Complete a Academy Training Program
If you satisfy all the prerequisites, the next stage in the procedure to become a correctional officer is to finish the academy training course offered by your jurisdiction. The precise curriculum employed in a correctional officer training program will differ from one jurisdiction to the next, just as the eligibility conditions.
The training programs’ lengths also differ. The Correctional Officer Training Academy (COTA), for instance, lasts seven weeks in Arizona. The Basic Correctional Officer Academy (BCOA) in California lasts for 13 weeks. Sometimes, especially if they reside far from the training institution, prospective correctional officers are offered to live in the dormitories there.
However, if you live close enough to the school, you might be able to stay put and make the daily journey. These training courses often combine classroom instruction with practical learning exercises and, occasionally, simulated training settings. The institution’s policies, rules, operating guidelines, security procedures, and self-defense techniques will all be covered in training. Some programs place a strong emphasis on de-escalation methods and communication skills.
Work Environment of a Correctional Officer
A correctional facility, such as a prison, jail, or detention facility, is often where a correctional officer works. These buildings are made to safely house people who have been found guilty of crimes or who are in the process of going to court. Correctional officers may encounter difficult, demanding, and possibly hazardous work conditions.
Correctional officers are assigned to certain positions or regions inside the prison that they are in charge of monitoring. These locations could be entry points, housing complexes, control rooms, or cell blocks. Due to the need for round-the-clock security and supervision in correctional facilities, officers frequently work shifts that last for the entire 24 hours, 7 days a week.
A correctional facility’s physical environment is constructed with security in mind. To stop unauthorized movement or evasion efforts, it can have barred windows, secure entrances with limited access, surveillance cameras, and other security features. There is a steady influx of inmates, staff, and visitors, which can make the institution noisy and crowded.
The clothing of a correctional officer and the carrying of tools including radios, cuffs, keys, and safety gear are frequently mandated. To keep the building safe and secure, they must abide by tight rules and follow established practices.
The actual task itself can be mentally and physically taxing. Correctional guards need to be equipped to handle potentially explosive situations, resolve tensions, and act quickly in an emergency. Additionally, they must keep a close eye on inmate conduct to spot any indications of potential threats or rule infractions.
An important component of a correctional officer’s job is interacting with prisoners. When dealing with prisoners, officers must set and uphold their professional boundaries. They must exert their authority, uphold the law, and guarantee compliance while keeping an eye out for maintaining a polite and equitable attitude.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a correctional officer do?
Typically, correctional personnel enforce laws and maintain order inside jails and prisons. Observe the activities of those under your care. Check facilities to make sure they adhere to security and safety requirements.
What corrections position has the highest rank?
Each institution has its own CEO, who is typically a Warden. A few stand-alone minimum-security camps instead designate a "Camp Administrator" as the CEO.
How should a CV for a correctional officer be written?
Contact information, a professional overview, a list of your accomplishments, education, and work experience are all required for a correctional officer resume. Additional sections on your resume might be added to highlight different qualifications.