If you have an interest in aspects of the law and think you’d enjoy a career in which you get to help people, becoming a corrections officer may be a path to consider, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This position is also commonly referred to as a prison officer, correctional officer or detention deputy. Regardless of the title, the role focuses on the supervision of incarcerated individuals in facilities such as prisons or youth detention facilities. These law enforcement professionals oversee the safety of inmates, maintain order, assist in rehabilitation and serve as an authority figure. Read on to learn more about the duties of prison officers and what it takes to become one.
Correctional Officer Duties
Prison officers have numerous duties that fall under the categories of safety, rehabilitation and authority. They are responsible for the safety of themselves and their co-workers, as well as the inmates or residents on their watch. In addition, they are tasked with the security of the facility and its borders. Surveillance cameras are in place that allow them to observe multiple areas at once. This monitoring allows them to notice inmate behavior, guard against escape attempts and to gain awareness of conditions or events within their assigned area.
Prison officers enforce discipline, conduct cell searches, monitor incoming and outgoing mail, break up fights between inmates and protect their fellow officers in the event of a prisoner attack. Corrections officers in jails, prisons and federal penitentiaries usually carry a weapon for security and safety purposes. Corrections officers also develop relationships with inmates. They learn about inmate issues and provide advice that may help them upon discharge. These professionals play a key role in ensuring that things run smoothly and in helping prisoners toward future success.
Useful Skills and Characteristics
There are no absolutes when it comes to the kinds of traits a good corrections officer should have, but there are some qualities that are helpful. It’s important that you be able to think quickly and critically. Decisions need to be made quickly in order to keep people safe. Being in good physical shape will help you to learn and use the skills needed to protect yourself and others. Strong interpersonal and communication skills, with an appreciation for diversity, will assist you in establishing proactive relationships with inmates. In addition, a calm temperament is helpful in order to avoid the escalation of stressful situations and to keep the peace while on the job. These are just a handful of characteristics seen in successful prison officers.
Education and Training
Correctional officers can be hired with a high school diploma or GED. There is usually a training program that covers aspects of the job such as firearms training, self-defense, legal overview, communication skills and security procedures. There will also be a component of on-the-job training provided.
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Overseeing the activities of incarcerated persons is an in-depth position that holds a great deal of responsibility. Deciding to become a corrections officer can also be a professionally and personally rewarding decision.