American prisons have been dealing with overcrowding for decades, requiring highly-trained and educated corrections officers to help maintain order. According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities for correctional officers are expected to increase by 9 percent between 2008 and 2018. These specialized officers oversee arrested suspects awaiting trial along with convicted criminals who have been sentenced to serve time in a local, state, or federal prison. While they are afforded no law enforcement duties outside of prisons, correctional officers must maintain inmate populations to ensure there are no major disturbances, attacks, or plans to escape. These duties can also include inspecting prisoners' cells, overseeing recreational activities or work stations, confiscating contraband, and enforcing inmate rules. Students interested in working within the correctional system should consider specialization when pursuing a Criminal Justice degree. Here are some of the details of working as a correctional officer.
The majority of correctional officers work within jails or larger penitentiaries supervising prisoner activities and rehabilitation. Some of these officers may be members of prisons' tactical response teams and are responsible for counteracting riots, major disturbances, and hostage situations.
However, there are several other positions within the field of corrections for students to consider. Some officers work as bailiffs, maintaining safety and order in courtrooms during legal proceedings. In addition, these court officers are responsible for supervising jurors and preventing interference with their deliberations, enforcing courtroom rules, assisting judges in carrying out their rulings, handing court documents, and providing prisoner security.
Correctional officers who provide exceptional service in the line of duty may be promoted to sergeant rank and over time may achieve administrative or supervisory positions within the prison system. Career advances may also include transferring from local jails up to state or federal penitentiaries, which are considered safer work environments. Working as a correctional officer can also provide a window to related opportunities like parole officer, probation officer, or correctional treatment specialists who work with released inmates towards further rehabilitation and adjustment back into society.