Are you seeking information about a career as a correctional officer? We present some useful information about it, that covers the vital aspects of this profession.
Law enforcement challenges in local and national prison cells have been increasing over the past years. Prison inmates may not be a threat to citizens, once they’re in prison cells, but they can be dangerous for other prisoners. Even in prison cells, incidents of violence and security breach occur often, making them a high security area, that requires strict law enforcement. This has pressed the needs for able and skilled correctional officers who are chiefly concerned with the task of maintaining peace, law and order amongst prison inmates.
Job Description of a Correctional Officer
Put forward simply, correctional officers are also known by other designations like detention officers, probation officers and jailers, with little difference in duties and responsibilities. They are officials who are recruited by local, state, and federal prison management authorities, for overseeing activities regarding prison cell security.
Most importantly, they ensure that there are no incidents of violence, crime threats, verbal, or physical abuse amongst prison inmates, in an attempt to disrupt peace and security, prevailing in prison cells. Several duties and responsibilities that are an integral part of the job are:
- Guard prison inmates as per the rules, regulations and laws established by the penal institution.
- Monitor behavior of inmates and perform frequent checks to prevent escape and disturbance amongst prisoners.
- Be vigilant in inspecting locks, doors, windows, grills, and gates. Ensure that there are no attempts to tamper with any of these escape routes.
- Observe inmates while they’re completing the work allotted to them, as a part of service. Guide them in carrying out their required tasks effectively.
- Patrol areas in case of any alarming situation and ensure that no unlawful activities are being carried out by inmates.
- Settle issues amongst inmates, if it is something like fighting over trifles, or issues that disturb prison peace.
- Be armed with weapons and guards to ensure that in case of any nuisance being created in the prison cell, strict action can be taken.
- Report information regarding prison inmates’ behavior and attitude to senior officials.
- Ensure the safety of inmates and escort them in visiting rooms, medical offices, and for religious work.
- Safeguard entrances of prison cells.
- In cases of juvenile crime, the officers have to ensure that they’re handling children and teenagers with care and understanding.
- Document reports regarding any mischief committed by inmates and also about the disciplinary action taken against them.
- Assist and accompany prisoners during court hearings.
Skill Sets and Educational Requirements
Educational requirements, age limit, and eligibility criteria for becoming a correctional officer vary depending on every state. While some correctional system employers want their employees to be at least 21 years of age, some even prefer candidates who are 18 years old. Almost all correctional system recruiters test candidates through a written and oral examination, followed by rigorous physical and psychological examinations.
For becoming a correctional officer, the Federal Bureau of Prison demands that candidates possess a bachelor’s degree and also prefer people with good work experience in the same field, who meet the complete educational requirements.
One other eligibility requirement is that candidates applying for this post must not have any past criminal background, or they must not have been convicted of felony.
Depending on the type of prison and number of prisoners, training may take one to six months. The American Correctional Association awards certificates to candidates who pass the exams conducted by this reputed organization. It is essential to pass the exams conducted by this leading authority, so that candidates are able to test their knowledge about the profession.
In recent years, two-year courses in correctional science have been started by several institutions to produce better and skilled correctional officers. Those interested can join these courses and increase their chances of employment.
Besides these educational requirements, candidates must be medically fit, mentally healthy and must have a strong personality, with attributes like patience, courage, and ability to face dangerous situations. This profession can be extremely stressful and dangerous, as there is the risk of encountering dangerous criminals, who may be on the lookout for a chance to escape.
In 2010, correctional officer salary varied between USD 28,000 to USD 48,000, on an average. As one advances in the later stage of this career, one can become a senior or principal correction officer, who commands a salary between USD 55,000 to USD 68,000.
While talking about a job description, salary and career opportunities are vital parameters. The BLS has reported that between 2009 and 2018, the demand for this job will increase by 9%. There are growth opportunities in this field and since it is a profession that demands excellent personality traits, those interested must make sustained efforts to achieve the eligibility criteria set by the respective authorities.