What it takes to be a Correctional Officer: A Brief Synopsis.
A correctional officer provides care, custody, and control of the inmate population within a jail setting. Becoming a correctional officer takes months of education and specialized training within a paramilitary like structured environment. Training begins with physical conditioning, including push-ups, sit-ups, and running. The recruits are taught to listen effectively, respond only when called upon, and to recognize and respect authority. Conditioning the mind is just as important as conditioning the body.
Training time and requirements vary by state. Check with the local correctional academy provider for specific requirements. Once the preferred academy has been chosen (e.g. correctional or probation & parole), check the local facilities for job openings and sponsorship opportunities. Some facilities will sponsor applicants provided they receive a promise of employment for a minimum specified length of time. Additionally, if the applicant fails the academy, reimbursement or reassignment to a lower pay grade may occur. Passing a state exam for certification is required upon completion of the correctional officer academy.
During the academy the recruit will have learned to recognize and respect authority, and in doing so learns to accept authority. The correctional officer is given an awesome amount of responsibility and authority incumbent to the position. It is important that this authority is not abused or applied with indiscretion. ‘Firm but fair’ is the motto to work by.
While training does model real life, it is not absolute nor is it a panacea. Training will provide a foundation or starting point. Training will be applied to real life scenarios and situations, while realizing that each encounter will require a different technique. Through continual engagement with different personalities and situations, confidence is built and provides solutions for future encounters.
Daily work of the correctional officer entails much paperwork and documentation. If it is not documented, how can one prove that it occurred? Documentation is an ally. If something seems arbitrary but it remains on the mind, it is probably not arbitrary. A report on an incident may be written and is never needed. A report may be written and is needed to thwart criminal or financial liability. In both situations a report was written. Documentation reduces liability.
Communication skills are the best tool one has. Effectively communicating allows the correctional officer to get the job done and go home safely at the end of the day. Building rapport with the inmates enables information sharing. This can mean life or death. If the correctional officer is warned in advance of a planned escape, riot, or attack, the safety of all involved can be achieved. This does not mean approval of the crime the inmate committed, only that an informative relationship has been established while the inmate incarcerated.
Many correctional officers work twelve hours per day. This usually equates to working six months out of the year. If time allows during days off, higher education opportunities exist at some facilities. Embracing higher education enables promotional opportunities and chances for advancement. Some opt for secondary employment. This is also available due to the amount of days off provided. An outside hobby is encouraged to reduce stress and prevent an over reliance on the job to provide happiness.
Intensive training, testing, and physical conditioning prepare the correctional officer for employment. On the job training prepares one for the real life situations that occur. Effective communication, documentation, and higher education provide a firm foundation for the correctional officer.