A correctional counselor is a treatment specialist and case manager that works within prison systems. They are responsible for helping incarcerated inmates reintegrate as citizens back into society. Correctional counselors work face-to-face with offenders to develop personal goals and rehabilitation plans that will reduce recidivism rates. They maintain detailed records of each inmate and evaluate individuals for potential risks. Most times, correctional counselors are the only people available to motivate prisoners turn their lives around and focus on their futures.
The average correctional counselor will provide direct care, treatment and supervision to assigned inmates in correctional facilities. They must ensure that inmates follow the rules and their individual treatment programs. They provide one to one and group counseling sessions. They also provide crisis intervention counseling using non-violent methods in emergency situations. They are also tasked with monitoring and evaluating behaviors through observation, writing evaluation reports for treatment meetings and entering treatment data into information systems. They must have working knowledge of the principles of offender supervision and the contemporary social and economic challenges of their clients. Correctional counselors must have the ability to establish effective rapport and relationships with offenders who may exhibit physically and emotionally challenging behaviors.
Population Management Correctional Counselor
A population management correctional counselor manages a caseload of offenders who are sentenced to Department of Corrections (DOC) custody, but housed within other jurisdictions. They usually work with youth offenders who cannot be housed within state and federal prisons. They are the primary DOC liaison with judges, attorneys, public officials, community support programs and law enforcement agencies. They work with interdepartmental units to provide routine oversight and coordination of services. They may perform offender risk assessments for the purposes of custody case management. They work independently and must quickly and logically make decisions under the pressures of deadlines and changing priorities. They must be comfortable dealing with tense interactions with unhappy or frustrated inmates and their family and friends.
Correctional Release Counselor
A correctional release counselor manages a caseload of inmates who are nearing the end of their incarceration period. They oversee reentry programs through preparing inmates for release back into the community. They accomplish this through interviewing inmates, identifying risks and needs, locating housing options and preparing release plans. All of their work is performed in conjunction with multidisciplinary case management teams. They must have expertise in developing and maintaining relationships, effectively using motivational interviewing and explaining release protocols, guidelines and timelines. They use their judgement to apply release restrictions and recommendation in individual plans. They must be good at diffusing hostile situations to focus on positive outcomes and personal control. They also need strong organizational skills that help them coordinate multiple simultaneous projects.
Correctional Counselor Job Requirements
Most employers require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree related to psychology, social work or criminal justice. a bachelor’s degree is required for employment in state and federal prisons. Most correctional counselors earn a social work degree that is accredited by the Council on Social Work Education. It is highly recommended to pursue electives related to criminology, sociology, law enforcement, political science, the legal system and social psychology. Most employers also require candidates to a U.S. citizen over 20 years old, have no felony convictions and pass competitive oral, written, psychological and physical exams.
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Those who want to become correctional counselors can peruse the Bureau of Labor Statistics career profile.