What Does a Corrections Officer Do?

Sep 07, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a corrections officer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and working conditions to find out if this is the career for you.

A corrections officer is an integral, educated, well-trained and well-respected member of the law enforcement community. Below, you will find important details regarding job duties, job outlook, and salaries.

Essential Information

Most corrections officer jobs are within jails and prisons at the federal, state and local government levels. Job duties include transporting and supervising prisoners in their daily activities, enforcing discipline and inspecting the facilities periodically. The job can be stressful and dangerous, and many corrections officers have high workloads. All corrections officers must have a high school education and complete a program at a training academy. Some agencies prefer candidates who have completed college courses, law enforcement or military training, or a college degree.

Required Education High school diploma or equivalent and completion of a training academy program; federal prisons require a bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2018) 7%* decline (Correctional Officers and Bailiffs)
Median Salary (2018) $44,400* (Correctional Officers and Bailiffs)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Does a Corrections Officer Do?

The work of a corrections officer is largely determined by where he or she is employed. For example, a corrections officer who works in a pre-trial detention facility works with people who are awaiting trial because of a recent arrest. This particular type of corrections officer is also known as a detention officer, and they are responsible for ensuring that individuals obey certain rules and regulations as they await trial.

Most corrections officers work in large prisons. They process new prisoners and ensure the security of the prison to prevent inmates from escaping. Corrections officers also work to reduce the incidence of fighting and other disturbances among the prison population. For instance, corrections officers will often visit prisoner cells to check for illegal substances and weapons. This is done on a periodic basis and is often unannounced. The work is stressful, and prisoner assaults on corrections officers are common. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that corrections officers have one of the highest rates of nonfatal injuries while working.

While many corrections officers deal with the general prison population, those with the appropriate training work in high security facilities that house the most dangerous and violent inmates. These inmates live in highly secure cells and are monitored by cameras. If there is an issue with an unruly prisoner that needs to be resolved quickly, corrections officers may be required to storm a cell. This often involves overpowering an inmate with the use of physical force and a debilitating agent such as pepper spray.

Corrections officers are required to document any disturbances among the prisoner population or with a particular inmate, sometimes reporting to a commanding officer about serious issues. Communication skills are important because many potentially troublesome situations can be deflated by calmly explaining the consequences to prisoners. Prisoners who repeatedly break the rules often have certain privileges taken away from them by corrections officers.

As you can see, the job duties for a corrections officer range from maintaining order in a facility to safely transporting prisoners. The BLS expects a slower than average rate of employment in this field, though opportunities exist on the federal, state and local levels.

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