Correctional officers have been in existence since the first prisoners were punished for crimes and held in jails. It is an old and respectable profession that is not for the faint of heart. It is a profession that changes lives and protects society. It is a profession that is worth the time and effort to become.
Looking at your record
Correctional officers must past many tests in order to be hired. First and foremost is your conduct. Most agencies will overlook a misdemeanor or two, and a few youthful indiscretions. They will not, however, overlook felonies or a pattern of bad behavior. They also frown on recent criminal activity. That does not mean that you cannot become a corrections officer if you have a small criminal record. It does mean that you will need to wait a while so that the crime is history. Essentially, you will need to pass a background check. Additionally, you must be of good moral character. Your previous employers and your references will be the key to this. Agencies do not want officers who will steal or lie, even if stealing and lying have not been put onto your criminal record. No one is perfect, but you must be trustworthy, and the agencies will be looking for this.
You need a diploma
In addition to behaving, you will need a high school diploma or a GED. The agency will provide you with the training that you need, but further education will give you an advantage. Many agencies will increase your pay grade for completing a four year degree and/or being in the military. You will also need to have a valid driver’s license. The minimum age requirement varies from state to state, but it’s generally as young as 18 years old or as old as 21 years old.
How to start the process
If you meet the above requirements and are a United States citizen, you are ready to become a corrections officer. To begin with, gather all of your paperwork to turn in to the agency that you apply to. This is going to be a driver’s license, diploma or GED, military paperwork, college degree if you have one, social security card, and in some cases, proof of residency in that state. Once you have the paperwork together, go online and find the Department of Correction’s website for your state. This website will tell you what to do next. The next step is either to take a basic job interest quiz or to simply apply. Finish the quiz if there is one and then fill out your application. The application needs to be thorough and complete. You may have to list all of the jobs that you have held over the past ten years, as well as professional references and casual references. It helps if you have this information handy to refer to before filling out the application.
Once you have filled out the application you can expect to wait—a lot. Usually the next step includes a basic test that measures your reading comprehension, your problem solving skills, and your memory. After that you will have a physical and a drug test. Some agencies have more steps that require psychological testing, physical fitness testing, and more medical screening, but that varies from agency to agency. Some agencies will interview you several times, but the interview is generally the final step before being hired.
Once you are hired you will have a lot of training ahead of you. There is training at your home agency as well as training at a training facility or academy. The training at the home agency will be to introduce you to your agency’s policy and procedure as well as to introduce you to the life of a correctional officer. You will not be alone as a trainee. You should always have your trainer nearby to ensure that you are doing your job correctly. At some point, as determined by your agency and by the openings available at the training facility, you will go for long training. The long training requires you to stay many weeks—anywhere from six to twelve weeks. During this time, you will learn the basics of being a correctional officer. You will learn laws as they apply to you, first-aid and CPR, how to safely and effectively restrain an individual, how to use a gun, and much more. This part of the training is a combination of class learning and hands on learning, but once you have completed it, you will be certified by your state to be a correctional officer.
Correctional officers are usually given a full year to complete training and be released from the probationary period. Some agencies are flexible and allow for more time, and some officers catch on much more quickly than others. But after this, you will be fully prepared to work as a correctional officer. You will have the opportunity to change the lives of inmates and their families. The job can be stressful, but it is very rewarding to know that you gave something good back to society.