Correctional officers guard prisons, but their career also demands much more. They investigate prison crimes, transport inmates, provide informal counseling, write reports, oversee correctional programming, supervise working inmates and serve as liaisons with the public. Without correctional officers, the criminal justice system would not fulfill its missions to keep communities safe and reduce recidivism. People want to become corrections officers for both idealistic and practical reasons.
Many future correctional officers want to help people. They believe they can provide discipline and stability to people whose lives have neither. To them, a correctional officer career means more than punishing people. It means serving as a role model and educator. They believe in rehabilitation and hope to transform criminals into law-abiding citizens.
Many people who pursue careers as correctional officers feel a strong desire to clean up crime-ridden streets and make communities safer for everyone. While correctional officers cannot arrest dangerous criminals, they play a role in keeping them off the streets and reforming them so they no longer pose a threat. Correctional officers help reduce recidivism by matching offenders with programs that can address their needs and minimize their risk of re-offending.
Many people pursue a career as a correctional officer because it provides stable employment. After all, society always needs prisons. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects steady growth through 2018 for correctional careers, due in part to the popularity of mandatory minimum sentences, which tend to fill and overcrowd prisons. Although states in budget crisis may lower or strip mandatory minimum sentence guidelines, prisons will still need to replace correctional officers who retire or leave the profession.
Young people with minimal education or people switching careers find correctional officer careers appealing because entry-level positions do not require an extensive education. In many states, correctional officers can start the job with an Associate's degree, according to the Everest College website. Once on the job, officers can pursue a Bachelor's degree or professional development. Correctional officers can also rise in rank to earn more income.
Correctional officers face challenges every day, whether from disruptive prisoners or gang violence inside the prison walls. In one sense, correctional officers have to act like police for the prison, gathering intelligence and investigating crimes. Some future correctional officers find those challenges exciting. They want a career that never gets boring and pushes them every day. The stress and dangers of correctional work requires officers to be well rounded so that they can be prepared for anything.
- South Coast Today: Hard Times at Dartmouth Jail: Officers Struggle with Gang Violence, Even Behind Bars; Brian Fraga; 2011
- Corrections Corporation of America: Testimonials; Rebecca Williams; 2008
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Correctional Officers and Bailiffs
- British Columbia: A Profile of BC Corrections
- Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images