Correctional officers are people who are in charge of those individuals who have been arrested and waiting trial or those who have already been tried and found guilty. Those that are found guilty are usually put in jail. The main responsibility of correctional officers is to ensure security within the prisons and prisoners accountability to prevent any harassments or escapes. The correctional officer also has a unique opportunity of interacting with inmates. They may thus double up as a primary or secondary provider of counseling and guidance services to inmates. Due to the multi-faceted nature of their duties, this paper asserts that for education and training qualifications for the correctional officers, a college degree is required and necessary.
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The officers do not enforce law and order outside the institution in which they work. They are only responsible for the correctional institutions. As a way of ensuring discipline maintenance within the prisons, they occasionally search the prisons to find out if the inmates are having any illegal weapons and drugs. They also supervise assignments given to inmates. Correctional officers also help in resolving conflicts between the inmates and at times inspect their living structures to make sure that proper sanitary conditions are maintained. In addition to this, they daily inspect all the openings of the institution such as windows, doors, and gates to make sure that there are no signs of tampering. They also inspect visitors who come to see the inmates and check any parcels to ensure no unwanted item gets into the institution.
Correctional officers keep records of inmates. They have to report either verbally or in writing about the conducts and progress of the inmates in terms of the nature of work that they do, incase they breach the law or any unusual behaviors among the prisoners. Correctional officers are expected to be non partial in treating the inmates. If an inmate violates any rule, they are required to report without any favor. In case of an escape, they help the investigative body and the law enforcement officers to find the escapee. When within the cells, they are expected to be an armed but have communication devices to help them raise an alarm just incase the inmates become chaotic.
Correctional officers usually enforce rules by use of communication skills and sanctions such as denial of favors. In the security tight cells where the most dangerous criminals are put, they watch their activities from a central point using computer tracking systems or other monitoring devices. Depending on the criminal security category, correctional officers usually give them escorts to wherever they go. That is, from the cells to courtrooms, hospitals, to see their visitors and to any other place outside the institution. However the working environment of the officers is quite risky. Many times the officers have been injured by inmates while on work. Most of the prisons are usually overpopulated, not well ventilated with no proper sanitary conditions yet they are expected to work indoors. The officers also work day and night because prisons and jails require twenty four hour security.
For education and training qualifications for the correctional officers, a college degree is required and necessary. This is because the correctional officers need to have skills and experience in such fields as counseling and psychology to enable them perform their duty effectively. They also need skills in record keeping and all these are courses offered at a college level. Again, most of the criminals are usually learned people with a sharp IQ hence need people who are well trained to manage them and therefore college training for the officers is necessary. The officers also need skills in other fields such as institutional policies, procedures and management, custody and security details because they work in an institution.
Human beings are always ambitious and expect to have vertical mobility in their place of work. Therefore for correctional officers with college level qualifications, they can always be promoted to senior levels such the position of sergeant correctional officer, warden or shift to related jobs such as those of probation officers or correctional treatment specialist.
For recruitment, correctional institutions usually require individuals who are between 18-22 years of age. These individuals should be free of any criminal records and citizens of the country or permanent residents. The officers should also be of good health and sound mind in terms of physical fitness, eyesight and hearing. Other skills required are ability to think fast and make decisions. All applicants are usually given a written test and screened for substance abuse. Additional advantages for recruitment include skills in response to strikes by inmates and other confrontations.
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According to Bureau of labor statistics, average annual income for correctional officers was $35,760 in May 2006. The middle 50% earned between $28,320 and $46, 500. The lowest 10% earned less than $23.600 and the highest 10% earned more than $58,580. In the public sector, average annual earning was $47,750 in the Federal government, $ 36,140 in State government and $34, 820 in local government while in the facility support system, average earnings were $25,050.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, starting salary for Federal correctional officers was $28,862 a year in 2007. In addition to this, correctional officers employed in the public sector are usually given uniform allowances. Civil service systems also cover officers employed by the Federal government and State governments. The officers are also expected to retire at the age of 50 years after 20 years of work or at any age with 25 years of work.
Today, prisoners know their rights well hence this makes them difficult to manage. Correctional officers are always in alert to any happenings within the institution. Therefore, it is the complexities in the nature of the work that they do which makes it necessary to train them at the college level so as to advance their understanding of policies and regulations, increase their work efficiency and enable them achieve the institution objectives.
Therefore taking into consideration the discussion above on correctional officers, I wish to conclude that a degree college level course for correctional officers is necessary.
US department of labor, Bureau of labor statistics, 2008-2009.Occupational outlook handbook.