Correctional Officer Job Description

Overseeing prison inmates is the chief task of a Correctional Officer. They are, in essence, “police officers” within a prison community, upholding the rules governing a correctional institution by monitoring and, when necessary, disciplining inmates. At times, a Correctional Officer will need to use physical force to break up fights between inmates or restrain disorderly individuals. Inspecting prison cells, searching incoming inmates and escorting inmates from one area of the prison to another are other duties for which a Correctional Officer is responsible.

Correctional Officers work closely with prison administrators, as well as investigators and other law enforcement personnel. They can work for federal prisons, county jails or detention centers. A slower-than-average job growth rate of 4 percent is expected during the 2014-2024 decade, as reported by the U.S. Labor of Bureau Statistics. A trend in shorter prison terms and alternative punishments are the main contributors to this modest job growth projection.


Correctional Officer Duties and Responsibilities

Correctional Officers must perform various tasks to ensure that prison policies are being adhered to and that inmates, Correctional Officers and other prison personnel are working in a safe environment. We have reviewed several job listings and found the following among the core Correctional Officer duties and responsibilities.

Monitor Inmate Activities

Supervising inmates is the main responsibility of a Correctional Officer. Whenever inmates are outside of the confines of their cells, a Correctional Officer is observing them at all times. This would include during work assignments, recreational activities and meal times. A Correctional Officer typically must escort an inmate to and from any area of the prison, such as the infirmary or visiting areas. The monitoring of inmates can include being in the same room or watching on a surveillance system.

Create Reports

Correctional Officers must log and keep track of all inmate activity. This includes filling out and submitting reports regarding inspections, transporting inmates and details about any altercations or disruptive behavior from one inmate or between inmates. Inventory reports of inmate property might also be filed by Correctional Officers at the time an inmate enters a correctional institution. Documenting inmate visitations, phone calls and mail could also be required of Correctional Officers.

Operate Equipment

Many prisons today utilize mechanical doors and Correctional Officers must be knowledgeable about how to operate these doors in addition to alarms and monitoring devices. In some cases, a Correctional Officer will operate a vehicle both inside and outside of the prison grounds.


Correctional Officer Skills

While Correctional Officers should have strong decision-making skills, be detail-oriented and be in good physical condition to meet the demands of the job, such as standing and walking for long periods of time, intervening in fights between inmates and restraining inmates as needed. Besides these general skills, many employers might look for potential candidates for a Correctional Officer position to possess the following skills.

Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Correctional Officers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Correctional Officer, focus on the following.

  • Reacting appropriately in tense and uncertain situations
  • Adhering to schedules and understanding relevant rules and regulations
  • Managing personnel in emergency and non-emergency situations
  • Using strong verbal and written communication skills for reports, observations and instructions

Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Correctional Officer toolbox and broaden your career options.

  • Knowledge of self-defense techniques
  • Basic first aid skills


Correctional Officer Resources

It could be helpful to research additional resources as you continue contemplating a career as a Correctional Officer. We have provided you with access to some online and other resources about professional organizations and insight into this career.

On the Web

Tales From the Local Jail – A blog focusing on life inside of a prison and the roles and expectations of a Correctional Officer. – An online resource for Correctional Officers that covers pertinent news, related products and links to articles about relevant topics such as defensive tactics, juvenile offenders, contraband and prison overcrowding. – A forum presenting discussions among actual Correctional Officers about different aspects of this career.

Industry Groups

American Correctional Association – ACA is the oldest organization devoted to the corrections profession. It offers professional development opportunities, conferences and publications of interest to Correctional Officers.

American Correctional Officers (ACO) – A coalition of related organizations providing safety information and practices within the corrections field.

American Jail Association – a nonprofit organization offering seminars, conferences and online publications about various professions within correctional facilities.

Correctional Officer Books

Doing Time Eight Hours a Day: Memoirs of a Correctional Officer – A personal account of a real-life corrections officer and what one can expect when involved in this career.

Correction Officer’s Guide to Understanding Inmates: The 44 Keys to Power, Control, and Respect – A review of methods and techniques for working with inmates as told by an retired Correctional Officer.

The Best Survival Guide for Correctional Officer Recruits – A short book that provides tips and advice for those just starting or seeking to start a career as a Correctional Officer.


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