Corrections Officer Jobs–What to Expect

Correctional Officers (also known as detention officers and jailers) have tough jobs. Each day a corrections officer reports to work, his/her life is in danger. Corrections officer jobs have one of the highest rates of nonfatal on-the-job injuries according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics annual report. Correction officer jobs involve overseeing men and women who have been arrested and are awaiting arraignment or trial or who have already been convicted of a crime and sentenced to jail or prison. Offenders serving a year or less are usually housed in county jails while offenders serving more than a year are typically housed in state and federal prisons.

Correctional officers in state and federal prisons watch over approximately 1.6 million prisoners, and correctional officers in jails process approximately 13 million people each year.

A Day in the Life of a Corrections Officer

A corrections officer’s day is anything but typical. One day at work may be quiet and uneventful while the next day could be filled with danger and violence. Corrections officers can be attacked or taken hostage at any moment, so officers must constantly be aware of their surroundings. If an inmate overpowers an officer and takes his weapon, the result can be catastrophic. At the beginning of the corrections officer’s shift, there is usually a staff meeting to discuss various topics–the meeting is known as a “read off,” and during the read off, officers are informed of their posts and duties for that day. While most posts are in the inmates’ housing units, some posts involve admitting new inmates and getting their information processed and entered into the prison system. This “intake” process is fast paced and requires a great deal of skill and experience in corrections. Inmates often arrive in an aggressive mood and will be less than cooperative during the intake process. Corrections officers hope that by treating the inmate with respect, they will be treated in a similar fashion. Sadly, however, that is rarely the case.

Corrections Job Responsibilities

The primary responsibility of correctional officers is to maintain order within the institution and enforce the rules of the institution. To help ensure that inmates are orderly, correctional officers monitor their activities and oversee inmate work assignments. Officers must perform routine searches of inmates’ living quarters for contraband like weapons or drugs, to settle disputes, and to enforce discipline. Additionally, corrections officers regularly inspect locks, window bars, doors, and gates for signs of tampering to escape. Officers must go through all inmate mail and search visitors to make sure contraband is not smuggled into the facility.

Corrections officer jobs are dangerous but rewarding. Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors, and while some institutions are well lighted, temperature controlled, and ventilated, others are old, overcrowded, hot, and noisy. Although both jails and prisons are dangerous work environments, prison populations are actually more stable than jail populations. Correctional officers in prisons know the security requirements of the prisoners they deal with on a daily basis, so they tend to be safer places to work. Because prison and jail security must be provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week, officers work all hours of the day and night, weekends, and holidays, and corrections officers may be required to work overtime.

Corrections Officer Jobs Education and Training

Some corrections jobs only require a high school diploma or GED, but if you want to advance in a corrections career, a criminal justice degree from Colorado Christian University will provide you with the education and training necessary for mid- to upper-level corrections jobs. For instance, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers have at least a bachelor’s degree, 3 years of experience in the field or some combination of the two. Some institutions require previous experience in law enforcement or the military, but college credits can be substituted to fulfill this requirement. Qualified officers may advance to the position of correctional sergeant, who supervise correctional officers and are responsible for maintaining security and directing the activities of other officers. Ambitious and qualified correctional officers can be promoted to supervisory or administrative positions such as warden.  Promotion prospects are typically enhanced by attending college. CCU also offers an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a Criminal Justice Certificate. A criminal justice certificate helps you acquire a deep understanding of criminal justice theory and practice and emphasizes the development of values-based decision making to help make you a valuable asset in any position  you pursue.

To learn about salaries offered for corrections officer jobs, please read the CCU blog entitled, “Criminal Justice Careers and Salaries”.

Colorado Christian University offers associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees and certificate and licensing programs to over 3,500 students. Eighty-five percent of CCU’s undergraduate students receive financial aid through grants, loans and scholarships. If you have always dreamed of a career in the criminal justice field, not only will CCU prepare for that career but will prepare you to be a leader in your church, community, business and the world. Our Professors will challenge you to integrate your faith into your criminal justice degree while helping you acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in your chosen career path.