May 27, 2022

What Does a Correctional Officer Do?

By B&SC Blog Team

What Does a Correctional Officer Do?

Many people may have a vague idea of what correctional officers do – probably from movies or television where they see correctional officers displaying great physical strength keeping inmates in line or physically punishing them. But the truth is, being a correctional officer is a much more nuanced job, involving a whole host of responsibilities that Hollywood often misrepresents, and they are rarely, if ever, as harsh as they are made out to be in the movies. Furthermore, the job has evolved as prisons have shifted from something akin to internment camps to places for prisoners to serve time and rehabilitate. Below, we will discuss in more detail what a correctional officer is, what they do, and what the workplace is like.

What is a Correctional Officer?

Correctional officers are law enforcement professionals that work inside jails, prisons, and penitentiaries. Their responsibilities include enforcing rules and monitoring the activities of inmates in a correctional facility. In other words, they serve as an individual of authority in jails, prisons, and penitentiaries.

They are also responsible for maintaining the security of the jail or prison itself, along with the safety and health of the inmates within it. Correctional officers make sure there is order and peace in the jail, stop any fights or violent confrontations, and assist or are integral in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Correctional officers are professional law enforcement who demonstrate strong character, emotional stability, and the teamwork skills needed to safely manage inmates.

What Do Correctional Officers Do?

Correctional officers have many responsibilities on a daily basis, including enforcing rules, supervising inmates during their daily activities, conducting searches for prohibited items, and enforcing discipline. Below we will outline and explain the main responsibilities of correctional officers.

  • Enforce rules: Rule enforcement is one of the main duties of a correctional officer. Correctional officers enforce rules and regulations by communicating clearly, making sure that the rules are known, keeping a watchful eye, and dispensing punishments when suitable. Punishments doled out by correctional officers for rule violations are usually a loss of privileges, and the punishments match the offense, meaning they don’t give major punishments for a minor offense.
  • Keep the peace: While prisons may not always be brimming with all-out brawls like you may see in the movies, moments of conflict do happen, and it is a correctional officer’s job to defuse the tension. They work to make sure a fight doesn’t break out or, if one does occur, to break it up and ensure the safety of everybody involved. Keeping the peace also includes preventing disturbances and escape attempts.
  • Supervise inmate activities: Because inmates must be constantly supervised, especially when they are out of their cells during daily activities, a big part of correctional officers’ duties includes supervising inmate activities. This means ensuring that all inmates are following the rules and making sure that they always know the whereabouts of all the inmates. Correctional officers also escort prisoners between the detention facilities and courtrooms, medical facilities, or elsewhere outside of the facility.
  • Conduct inspections: Inspecting facilities to make sure they meet the standards of the detention facility is another important duty. Their inspections include making sure that the prison cells and other areas are in good sanitary condition. They also look for any contraband, signs of a potential security breach, and any other evidence that points to rule violation.
  • Perform searches: Searches are conducted on the inmates’ person, along with their living quarters, to make sure they are not holding any contraband, like drugs or weapons. To ensure that no contraband comes into the prison to begin with, correctional officers screen visitors and any incoming mail.
  • Rehabilitate and counsel: Another important part of a correctional officer’s job, one that does not get much media attention, is rehabilitation and counseling. Correctional officers that have significant training or a college degree are often used to aid in the rehabilitation and counseling of offenders. This is a vital piece of the job as it helps to prevent any return visits to the prison after the offenders are released. Additionally, correctional officers may schedule educational opportunities, work assignments, and counseling for those being rehabilitated.
  • Report on inmate conduct: When any inmate violates a rule, correctional officers are required to report it. Correctional officers are required to write reports and fill out daily logs that describe the inmates’ behavior along with anything else relevant that might have occurred. In the case that a crime is committed or an inmate escapes, correctional officers assist law enforcement officers in their investigation and search for escapees.
  • Facilitate safety: Ensuring and facilitating safety is an extremely important responsibility for correctional officers. Correctional officers are therefore responsible for facilitating personal safety, team safety, and inmate safety. Personal safety is making sure they are safe themselves. All correctional officers go through rigorous training, including how to use firearms, batons, pepper spray, and hand-to-hand combat. Team safety is making sure that other correctional officers and prison personnel are always safe. They ensure that by making sure that all other officers and personnel follow prison protocol. Lastly, inmate safety ensures that all inmates are safe by making sure they follow the rules, don’t carry any contraband, and don’t harm themselves or other inmates.

What is the workplace of a correctional officer like?

The workplace for correctional officers varies greatly depending on a variety of conditions. To begin, the age of the prison can certainly factor into how good or bad the workplace conditions are. There are many older detention facilities, but the population boom in prison facilities has caused a lot of new facilities to open. Newer facilities often have fewer inmates, better temperature control, and can more easily accommodate inmates. Older facilities, on the other hand, can be overcrowded, hot, and poorly ventilated.

Also, ownership of correctional institutions can affect the workplace as well. There are both government-operated and private detention facilities. Government-owned facilities tend to have better funding and may be a better environment to work in.

Furthermore, the level of security at the facility can greatly affect the workplace. There are varying levels of detention facilities: minimum, medium, and maximum security. Maximum security prisons have a higher population of violent inmates, meaning that there are more conflicts, and the job is usually much more stressful. Therefore, minimum security prisons along with halfway houses and other lower-security facilities are usually less stressful and may be considered easier to work at.

In addition, other factors that contribute to the quality of the workplace include working rotating shifts. When there is a shortage of correctional officers, it means you may have to work overtime, depending on how well staffed your facility is. Correctional officers also stand for many hours of the day and can work both inside and outdoors, which is great for individuals who dislike working inside during their entire shift.

Start Your Correctional Officer Career Journey Today

If starting a career as a correctional officer interests you, you should consider earning a degree in the criminal justice field. Correctional officers are usually required to have a college education or have military or law enforcement experience and job training. They also must pass a background check.

Consider starting on your path towards being a correctional officer today at Bryant & Stratton College by getting a Criminal Justice Associates Degree. Graduates of this associate degree program will be qualified to work not only in corrections, but in other areas as well, such as law enforcement, security, and the juvenile justice system.

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