Is a career as a corrections officer right for me?

by Raja Tahir on April 23, 2018 · 9:00 am

Do you want a career in criminal justice? Are you interested in maintaining law and order in a prison environment? Are you prepared to work with convicted criminals? If you answered “yes” to these questions, then a career as a corrections officer might be the right fit for you.

What does a corrections officer do?

Corrections officers, also known as correctional officers, are tasked with supervising individuals who have been arrested and are being held for trial, or those who have been convicted of a crime and are serving a sentence in a jail, reformatory or penitentiary.

According to the BLS, correctional officers are tasked with the following:

  • Keep order within the jails or prisons by enforcing rules
  • Observe, oversee and manage the activities of inmates
  • Inspect the premises and facilities to make sure it meets all safety and security standards
  • Search the inmates for any contraband items
  • Report on the conduct and activities of the inmates
  • Transport and escort the inmates from one facility to the other

Why should I become a correctional officer?

A career as a corrections officer can be stable, well-paying and rewarding. According to the BLS, as of May 2017, the median annual wage for corrections officers was $42,960.

In addition, California has the highest annual mean wage out of all the states at $71,630, according to BLS data from May 2017. California also has the 2nd highest employment level of correctional officers in the U.S. with 36,730 jobs.

Where do corrections officers work?

According to The Balance Careers, corrections officers spend most of their time working indoors and inside locked correctional facilities. They work in prisons, jails, detention centers and courthouses. Corrections officers are with the inmates, defendants, and arrestees throughout every part of the criminal justice system, which includes after the arrest all the way to the trial and incarceration.

According to the BLS, the largest employers of correctional officers are state governments, which make up 54% of all employers of correctional officers. The second largest is local government, which makes up 37%. The third largest employer is facilities support services, which makes up 5%, and then the federal government at 4%.

Is a career as a correctional officer right for me?

A career as a corrections officer can provide you with a stable career and decent salary with benefits, but it also carries some risks.

The BLS states that corrections officers can be injured during confrontations with inmates and they have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses out of all occupations. Officers are expected to be alert and ready to react to any situation that may arise. This is why working in a correctional facility can be stressful and dangerous for the officers.

Also, according to the BLS, corrections officers will work all hours of the day and night, which includes weekends and holidays. This is because prison security needs to be provided around the clock, so correctional officers usually work in rotating shifts full time and some may be required to work overtime as well.

What is the process like to become a corrections officer?

Though you only need a high school diploma to become a corrections officer, having a degree in a field like criminal justice can help you land the job you want and increase your chances of career advancement. There are several requirements you need to meet when applying to work as a Correctional Officer in California, according to the California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR):

  • Education: Equivalent to completion of the twelfth grade. Demonstrated by:
    -Possession of a high school diploma issued by a U.S. institution, or
    -Passing the California High School Proficiency test, or
    -Passing the General Education Development (GED) test meeting California high school graduation standards, or
    -Possession of a college degree (Associate of Arts or higher) from an accredited college or university
  • Must be a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident alien who is eligible for and has applied for citizenship at the time of application
  • Applicants are required to pass a drug screening test
  • Must be at least 20 years of age at time of application and 21 years of age at the time of appointment
  • History of law-abiding behavior
  • Must be legally eligible to own, possess and have custody/control of any firearm or other weapon authorized by the CDCR
  • Must meet Physical and Mental suitability standards

Once you have applied, the selection process includes the following:

  • Written Examination
  • Physical Fitness Tet
  • Background Investigation
  • Vision Test
  • Psychological Exam
  • Medical Exam

This process can take 12 to 18 months, according to the CDCR, which is consistent with all law enforcement agency hiring. After successfully completing all the requirements, candidates are placed on a certification list, which gives them eligibility to be appointed as a Correctional Peace Officer.

How do I start my training to become a Corrections Officer?

A good first step is to enroll in an academy that is STC-certified by the Board of State and Community Corrections.

In SJVC’s Criminal Justice: Corrections program, graduates earn an Associate of Science Degree in approximately 14 months as well as certification in the Standards and Training for Corrections (STC) Adult Core Academy, which includes 8-hour Baton training.

Graduates also receive Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) certified training in Powers to Arrest, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Firearms, Baton, Chemical Agents, Public Relations, Observations and Documentation, Communications and its Significance, and Liability and Legal Aspects – resulting in (BSIS) Security Guard Card and (BSIS) Security Guard Exposed Weapons permits.

SJVC’s Adult Academy is STC certified through the Board of State and Community Corrections and includes over 82 hours of additional course content beyond the state’s minimum, including First Aid and CPR certification and field trips to correctional facilities.

Request more information or call 866-544-7898 to speak with an admissions advisor about SJVC’s Criminal Justice: Corrections Program.

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