A correctional officer is a person whose job is to supervise and ensure the security of arrested persons who are awaiting trial and persons who have been tried, found guilty and sentenced to serve time in a correctional facility. Correctional officers are usually hired and trained by the government, though in some cases they may be sourced from private security companies. They usually do not act as law enforcers outside the correctional facility. Therefore, they are able to concentrate their efforts on ensuring order, security and discipline within prisons. A correctional officer is required to be educated or experienced in law-enforcement. Education and experience in counseling and psychology is also relevant to the job.
A correctional officer’s primary role is to maintain order and security in a correctional facility. A prison is a controlled environment with strict rules that the prisoners have to abide by, therefore inmates are likely to cause disturbances or rebel against the prison authority. The correctional officer is charged with detecting disturbances, preventing and controlling them. Disturbances may come in the form of strikes, fights, escapes and riots. Contraband such as weapons and drugs fuel the disturbances therefore the correctional officer should routinely search the inmates and their living areas. The entire correctional area is also thoroughly searched for contraband, fire hazards and signs of tampering regularly.
The correctional officer is responsible for settling conflict and disputes among inmates and incase of intense conflicts, there may be need to broker negotiations among the conflicting parties. The correctional officers are also responsible for assigning tasks to prisoners and supervising them while they carry out their work. Correctional officers also receive first-aid training, thus they are able to assist in emergencies such as suicide attempts. In addition, they search visitors and mail for any contraband. Correctional facilities may be either maximum-security or minimum-security correctional facilities.
Maximum-security institutions pose greater work-related hazards than minimum-security institutions. Inmates in maximum-security institutions are likely to cause greater disruptions than those in minimum-security institutions. Therefore, a correctional officer in such a facility has to take the necessary measures and precautions to ensure the safety and security of the inmates and the institution. This might include conducting thorough searches regularly and restraining inmates who may pose a danger to the facility.
The correctional officer faces many perils in the course of his work within the correctional facility. For example, while controlling a riot, there is risk of serious injury especially where the inmates are armed. The job is also stressful; correctional officers sometimes have to work longer hours due to the shortage of correctional officers. Correctional facilities operate throughout the year; therefore, it is a very demanding job. This may result in exhaustion, health problems and strained relationships.
The ratio of inmates to correctional officers is also very high; therefore, the correctional officer has to work almost twice as hard to enforce order and discipline within the facility. It is therefore not a job that is considers desirable by the society. Therefore, correctional officers may feel stigmatized by the community. Due to the nature of their job, correctional officers are supposed to remain always professional and emotionally unattached. The inmates should be respected and taken care of while at the same time disciplined and treated with suspicion. The correctional-officer should never show bias or favoritism while carrying out his duties. He must report every inmate who breaks the institution’s rules and regulations. He must also not hold grudges against any inmate.