Prison Officer Job Description, Skills, and Salary
Get to know about the duties, responsibilities, qualifications, and skills requirements of a prison officer. Feel free to use our job description template to produce your own. We also provide you with information about the salary you can earn as a prison officer.
Who is a Prison Officer?
A prison officer is a uniformed law enforcement official who deals with the custody, regulation, safety, and supervision of prisoners or convicted fellows. Prison officers take care of and control individuals that have been convicted of a crime and imprisoned. They are responsible for their custody and ensure that they are safe. Also, a prison officer makes sure that the prison facility is well secured and protected from vandalism. Besides safeguarding the structure, the prison officers carry out other law enforcement functions and tasks. They perform routine checks on the inmates and make sure that they conform to the rules of the correctional facility always.
Also known as correctional officers or jailers, most prison officers are employed or hired by the government to work in different correction facilities. Their activities are overseen by the government of the jurisdiction in which they operate. However, a prison officer can be employed by private companies that offer prison services to the State or government as well. As a correctional officer, you are expected to maintain order and coordinate the daily operations and processes of the facility to which you were deployed; you are liable for the control, care, and custody of all inmates.
Generally, a prison officer is trained and equipped to control and regulate dangerous inmates or prisoners that pose dangers to fellow inmates and society at large. While supervising the work activities and assignments of prisoners, the prison officer must also avert assaults, disturbances, and escapes. They have a responsibility of protecting society from individuals or inmates that they don’t want to accommodate. Sometimes, the prisoners might assault fellow inmates, officers, or visitors; the correction officers must be alert always to prevent such attacks or assaults as well as assist in the rehabilitation process of the inmates.
There have been reports of inmates or prisoners committing suicide; a prison officer should be vigilant and ready to prevent such from happening; this can be done by performing regular checks on prison cells, dining areas, and other parts of the prison. They must be aware and conscious of every movement that takes place inside the facility and premises. Since prevention constitutes one of the major tasks of the correctional officers, they must regularly search the inmates living quarters for drugs, weapons, contrabands, and other potential threats. Protection of properties and serenity is equally part of the job description of a prison officer.
When faced with adversities and mounting challenges, a prison officer should remain assertive and refuse to back down in such situations. Every correctional or prison facility has rules and regulations that must be adhered to; the correctional officer holds violators, inmates, and lawbreakers accountable for their actions and may reprimand them when necessary. The reprimanding can be done by opening a formal discipline process, administering on-the-spot punishment or correction, or via a legal process in extreme cases. The health and safety of the inmates and facility are important to the government or firms that employed the prison officers; therefore, they must ensure that all the non-negotiable(s) with regard to health and safety are obeyed and followed.
Furthermore, fire and severe weather drills are common in prisons and correctional facilities; the prison officer must routinely check for fire hazards, unsanitary conditions, and unsavory behavior within the facility. The correction officer needs to ensure that any damage or tampering to doors, drills, bars, locks, and gates is properly taken care of. For selected or specific high-risk inmates, the prison officer screens their outgoing and incoming mails and visitors. They search and screen visitors, prison staff, new court commit, returning offenders from the off ground, and volunteers before entry. This helps to reduce the number or volume of contrabands that can be introduced into the vicinity. Some inmates may be redeployed to other facilities; others might have court sessions and medical appointments. The prison officer is responsible for transporting such inmates to court appearances, medical appointments, and other approved facilities or locations. They also motivate and encourage the inmates to do what is best for them and society at large. To enhance the prisoners’ rehabilitation process, the correction officer must strike a balance between being compassionate and understanding and showing authority.
A correctional officer usually possesses the ability to make quick decisions, deal meritoriously with unexpected situations and emergencies, and think on their feet. These courageous law enforcement officers work tirelessly in penitentiaries in shift patterns including night duty and weekends. The prison officer is coached to know when to segregate inmates to guarantee and supplant the safety of higher-risk prisoners. Apart from protection, custodial duties, and support, a prison officer performs administrative duties as well albeit in a marginal capacity; he/she creates reports and maintains the records. They emphasize and direct food service workers to observe high levels of personal and environmental hygiene.
Prison Officer Job Description
Below are the prison officer job description examples you can use to develop your resume or write a job description for your employee. Employers can also use it to sieve out job seekers when choosing candidates for interviews.
The job description of a prison or correctional officer contains a series of functions and roles which include;
- Provide appropriate support and care to vulnerable and high-risk inmates.
- Assist in overall prisoner or inmate reviews.
- Carry out search procedures and security checks on detainees, volunteers, visitors, and prison staff.
- Be aware of the inmates’ responsibilities, rights, and dignity.
- Play an active role in the rehabilitation of inmates.
- Escort prisoners to court sessions, medical appointments, and other facilities.
- Perform patrol checks and supervise visits.
- Keep account of prisoners under your care and maintain proper order.
- Employ approved and legal physical restraint and control procedures when necessary.
- Ensure the prisoners have access to professional help.
- Advice and counsel the inmates if possible.
- Promote suicide prevention procedures and anti-bullying.
- Write and document the detainees’ reports.
- Liaise with other specialist staff such as social work professionals and health workers that are involved in the prisoner’s welfare.
- Deal and respond to prisoners’ requests and applications.
- Work with small groups of inmates to help them to prepare for release.
- Control disorderly behavior.
- Prevent breakouts, disturbances, and assaults in penitentiaries and correctional centers.
- Supervise the work assignments of the inmates.
- Inspect prison facilities to make sure they meet safety and security standards and requirements.
A correctional officer must be able to assert authority in a non-discriminatory manner. They should be excellent observers and remain calm in stressful situations while treating prisoners with respect and humanity. A successful prison officer candidate will have various prerequisite qualifications that typically include;
Training: Employers prefer highly-trained prison officers; training varies from facility to facility and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Although most prison officer roles come with on-the-job training, familiarity and training in certain areas can suffice. These include use of force, weapons, and restrain, first aid and CPR, self-defense, report writing, and defusing hostility. Others include training on and understanding criminal law, hostage negotiation, suicide prevention, gang intelligence, and crisis intervention. The correctional officer should also undergo drug abuse training, rapid response training, critical incident stress management, and occupational health and safety.
In-depth knowledge of common laws, institutional rules, and custody guidelines is an advantage; so too an in-depth knowledge of public safety and security.
Education: Generally, a prison officer requires a secondary school leaving certificate, GCSE, or a high school diploma to start working. A university degree is not compulsory; most employers pay more attention to the individual’s personality and work experience. However, candidates who want to develop leadership skills and move up the cadre can enroll for and present a degree in prison services or other related fields.
The applicants must pass certain medical and fitness tests to be qualified for the position of a prison officer. They will also need to excel and ace a numeracy assessment.
Prior Experience: Any experience accumulated from working with individuals with challenging behaviors is an added advantage. Any form of voluntary experience working in police stations or security firms can suffice in that regard.
The question-what are prison officer skills? Beckons when describing the roles of a prison officer; several answers to the question have been formulated. Well, prison officer skills are simply the qualities, competencies, and elements that allow prison officer to complete their job responsibilities, duties, and tasks. Moreover, highly skilled and competent prison officers are needed in correctional facilities worldwide to supervise the daily activities and keep operations running smoothly. Thus, the following are essential skills a prison officer needs to help them perform their duties;
Resilience: Upholding and maintaining law and order in prisons come with unique challenges; and prison officers might make mistakes occasionally. A good prison officer should be resilient enough to learn from their mistakes and use those lessons to get better at the job. For instance, when an inmate or fellow officer gets injured during a fight, the prison officer is expected to learn from the horrifying experience and take steps to prevent it from happening in the future.
Excellent decision-makers: A prison officer may be required to make quick decisions in dangerous situations. They must be smart, courageous, and confident when making those decisions. Also, the prison officers must ensure that those decisions or choices will minimize harm as much as possible for everyone involved.
Open-mindedness: To be successful as a prison officer, you should avoid being too rigid. In contrast, try and be open to new and different perspectives of doing things. A correctional officer should be mentally capable and flexible enough to acclimatize to new challenges and changes. This skill enables the prison officer to react promptly to emerging situations. Open-mindedness prevents or inhibits bias, sentiment, and stereotyping from influencing or affecting the correctional officer’s work.
Care and communication: The correctional officers must have the ability to pay attention to the needs of the inmates and ensure that they receive the care they need. Caring for inmates might include the provision of water, food, clothing, and promoting their mental and physical health. On the other hand, correctional officers need to communicate adequately with the inmates; communication is vital when conveying directions, disseminating information, and answering questions from the prisoners. Communication in this regard also entails exchanging information in verbal and written form with supervisors and managers.
Self-discipline and decisiveness: An important attribute of prison officers is self-discipline; this makes them focus only on their work and learn how to react to various situations logically and not emotionally. Self-discipline enables the prison officers to handle and resolve conflicts and misunderstandings professionally. Relatively, a prison officer needs to be decisive since the role comes with inherent and emerging challenges. Decisiveness helps the prison officer to assess situations, determine the significance of the evidence and decide on the right action to take, and process information swiftly. This can lead to the maintenance of order in prison facilities.
Teamwork: Often, the correctional officers work in teams to perform their job duties; this makes collaboration and cooperation important. They should have the ability to help their coworkers and hold themselves and their team members accountable to ensure they are always acting ethically.
Impartiality: The employer or hiring managers at penitentiaries can use a hypothetical situation to test a correctional officer’s judgment skills. Prison officers must be neutral in their interactions with prisoners. They should show no signs of favoritism and should treat all detainees alike. They must report all rule violations to superiors regardless of the inmates involved and enforce any necessary disciplinary actions accordingly. If an external law enforcement agency needs to carry out an investigation, the prison officer must cooperate and present the right report regardless of their feelings or affiliation with the prisoner involved.
How to Become a Prison Officer
There may be slight differences on how to become a prison officer based on the location or prison you are applying to. However, there is a consensus on the basic steps needed to start a career as a prison officer. These general steps are briefly discussed and explained below;
Make sure you meet the basic requirements: Requirements in terms of qualifications, training, or experience are crucial to becoming a prison officer. Hence, ensure that you meet the basic requirements before proceeding. Examples of some of the requirements include passing a fitness test, being 18 years and above, and having the ability to see and hear clearly.
Pursue education to develop your skills: Though prisons rarely have strict requirements for education, pursuing an education in prison services can place you above your peers. Also, a relevant higher education will provide you with detailed information about the history of criminal justice and laws involving inmates and prisons.
Check for job listings: Next, research prison facilities in your location and check for job openings on websites and other advertising platforms. Once you find a vacancy, read the job description and requirements and fill the application.
Pass the interview, screening, and testing process: Complete a series of tests and assessments to become a viable candidate. Examples of the tests are scenario-based tests, online assessments, and behavior-based tests.
Complete your training: Finally, you should complete a prison officer’s entry-level training to learn and harness the skills you need to become an effective prison officer.
Where to work
Most prison officers are employed by the government and assigned to work in different prison facilities across several locations and states. In addition, a prison officer can work in a private prison contracted out to security firms. Other correctional officers can be employed by agencies that offer prison services to the government, state, or region.
Prison Officer Salary Scale
Several countries recruit prison officers to maintain law and order in penitentiaries. However, the salary scale or structure differs based on location, terms of the contract, experience, added qualifications, and economic climate amongst others. A breakdown of the salary scale of a prison officer in some countries is given thus;
Prison officers in the United Kingdom earn an average salary of 22,421 GBP per annum. This amount depends on the location, shift hours, employer, and other related factors. Also, a prison officer in the UK often gets employment benefits like travel loans and paid time off.
Correctional officers in the United States of America earn approximately 32,712USD per year excluding bonuses and extra allowances. Also, their monthly salary is an average of 2,316 USD.
The average salary for a prison officer in Canada is 55,217 CAD per annum.
In Nigeria, a prison service officer earns between 80,800NGN to 226,000NGN per month. Salary covers housing, health, hazard, and other allowances.