Correctional Officer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

Last updated: June 22, 2022

A Correctional Officer, or Prison Guard, is responsible for enforcing the rules and maintaining routines at a jail, prison or another correctional facility. Their duties include inspecting jail cells according to security protocols and safety codes, supervising inmates during meals and recreational time and diffusing conflicts between inmates to help preserve peace and order.

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Correctional Officer duties and responsibilities

The important responsibilities of a Correctional Officer include maintaining a consistent routine and demeanor, because in corrections, security and control are vital. Some of the daily duties include:

  • Regular head counts of inmates within a section
  • Monitor inmate behavior and report unusual activity to ensure safety and security
  • Escort inmates to job sites, medical facilities, classrooms or wherever they are needed in a timely, secure manner
  • Assist other Correctional Officers with management of inmates
  • Conduct regular searches of inmate areas like cells, recreation rooms and showers for unauthorized items
  • Manage confrontational situations as they arise to maintain security
  • Write regular reports of activities
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Correctional Officer Job Description Examples

What does a Correctional Officer do?

Correctional Officers work closely with inmates in their living quarters to oversee and monitor their daily activities. They can work for governmental institutions or for private prisons. Correctional Officers record the events of each day and make note of any confrontations or other issues. They confiscate contraband and determine when to discipline inmates who break protocol. Correctional Officers can also act as an escort when taking inmates to court hearings, health clinics, classrooms and recreation areas. They distribute supplies and ensure that inmates get proper care and protection from harm while in custody.

Correctional Officer skills and qualifications

A successful Correctional Officer candidate needs these skills and qualifications:

  • Good writing skills to create clear reports
  • Strong verbal communication skills to interact with inmates and coworkers
  • Leadership skills to maintain order and control
  • Ability to work 12-hour shifts or longer
  • Fluency in English 
  • Ability to pass a minimum fitness test
  • Sound judgment skills to make good decisions in high-stress situations

Correctional Officer Salary Expectations

A Correctional Officer makes an average salary of $37,998 per year. Pay rate may depend on level of experience, education and the geographical location.

Correctional Officer education and training requirements

The minimum educational requirement for a Correctional Officer is a high school diploma or GED. A hiring preference is given to applicants with a military or law enforcement background, a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science or criminal justice or cultural diversity training. 

Correctional Officer experience requirements

Typical experience requirements for a Correctional Officer vary. Some join an organization with a high level of experience while others have no direct experience at all. Training is often given to all new officers regardless of prior experience to ensure that a facility is operated according to the standards regulated by the State Department of Corrections.

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Frequently asked questions about Correctional Officers

 

What qualities make a good Correctional Officer?

Working as a Correctional Officer is an extremely stressful job, so good Correctional Officers are excellent at stress-management and staying calm under pressure. They are highly organized and authoritative with the ability to communicate clearly with others, even if they are distressed or angry. Good Correctional Officers remain calm in stressful situations and are able to appropriately use peer-to-peer conversations and humor to eliminate tension. They are very perceptive and pick up on social cues and inmate mannerisms to direct them to the help they need before a serious situation occurs.

 

What is the difference between a Correctional Officer and a Detention Officer?

While some institutions use the titles of Correctional Officer and Detention Officer interchangeably, they can indicate a different set of responsibilities. Correctional Officers are generally in charge of supervising inmates in larger facilities such as state or federal prisons. They work with people who have been convicted of a crime and focus on maintaining order in their housing quarters. Detention Officers work at small institutions such as county jails and supervise people who are still awaiting trial. Detention Officers accompany people to their court hearings, process intake forms and supervise visitation.

 

Who does a Correctional Officer report to?

Correctional Officers report directly to a Senior Correctional Officer who has extensive experience at a particular facility. All ranks of Correctional Officers report to an institution’s Warden, who oversees all of the operations at their facility. The Warden delegates tasks to Senior Correctional Officers who keep their team updated on best practices and create schedules. Correctional Officers have to meticulously record their behavior and provide updates to their ranking officer at the end of each shift.

 

What should you look for on a Correctional Officer's resume?

A Correctional Officer’s resume should emphasize the candidate’s ability to manage other people and respond to emergency situations. Experience in criminal justice, social services and security can easily transfer to a Correctional Officer position. Certifications in first aid, crisis management and self-defense can indicate a highly experienced candidate who would excel in a Correctional Officer role. The skills section of their resume should emphasize discipline, initiative and integrity to indicate they are trustworthy enough to be in a position of authority over inmates.

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