What Are the Job Duties of a Correctional Officer?

Correctional officers maintain the safety of correctional facilities and supervise prison inmates. If you're interested in pursuing this profession, read on to learn about the duties and potential risks associated with this occupation. Schools offering Corrections degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Duties

The day-to-day job duties of correctional officers vary depending on the size and type of correctional facility. Jails typically house newly arrested offenders and those with short-term sentences; inmates serving sentences over a year long are transferred to prisons. There are also different security levels for prisons. In some facilities, correctional officers work amid the inmates in their cellblocks.

Wherever they work, officers' principal job duties involve maintaining safety and security. It's up to them to keep a prison facility under control and safe for prison workers, visitors, and inmates.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Required Education Usually a high school diploma or the equivalent
Key Skills Negotiating skills, self-control, good judgment and resourcefulness
On-the-Job Training Varies depending on the agency; usually weeks or months of training
Similar Occupations Police officers and detectives, correctional treatment specialists, probation officers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Supervising Inmates

Correctional officers oversee inmates in designated areas and constantly supervise them, looking for unusual behavior, rule infractions, and suspicious activity. Maintaining order and security is paramount, and officers must ensure inmate safety. Correctional officers routinely inspect inmates and visitors for possession of hazardous materials, search inmate cells for prohibited objects, and conduct frequent head counts to account for each prisoner.

Maintaining Reports, Records, and Data Logs

A correctional officer controls the movement of inmates and maintains jail logs and records, including inmate rosters and housing assignment boards. As a correctional officer, you can expect tasks such as booking and fingerprinting new inmates, in addition to reporting information such as damage to jail property or any inmate problems that arise during your shift. You're also expected to make regular spoken and written reports on general prisoner behavior as well as work performance.

Maintaining Security

As a correctional officer, you search visitors and inmates who are entering the jail. Other day-to-day job duties may include patrolling the prison's parameters, checking door locks, supervising inmate recreational activities, and verbally enforcing rules. During an assigned shift, you may administer physical security checks and supervise inmates' visits. Because safety must be upheld at all times, you'll respond to emergency situations and defuse them as quickly as possible. The physical capability to defend yourself in the event of violent acts or emergencies is necessary.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

Job opportunities for correctional officers are expected to decline between 2016 and 2026, reports the BLS. The BLS reported in May 2018 that the average salary earned by such correctional officers and jailers was $49,300. Those working for federal institutions earned the most money in 2018, averaging $57,540 a year. Other high-paying employers included state and local governments, psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals, and investigation and security services.

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