Correctional officers have the duty of overseeing members of society who have been arrested and are awaiting trial, or who have already been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a jail or penitentiary. With the rate of crime rising in cities across the U.S., corrections officers are in demand in every state. Like every job, there are clearly defined pros and cons to stepping into this line of work. Weighing both positive and negative aspects of this career field will ensure you have made an informed decision.
Pro: Pay and Benefits
The average annual salary of a state correctional officer is $38,380 and $53,459 for Federal positions. Besides their general pay, corrections officers are allotted a clothing allowance to purchase their own uniforms. They also receive state health benefits at little cost and can retire at the age of 50 with 20 years of employment, or at any age with 25 years of service. State corrections officers receive adequate sick days and vacation time. The amount of time off each corrections officer is entitled to increases with every year of service.
Pro: Job Security
With a rising amount of crime in our nation, corrections officers will not be facing downsizing. Employment of correctional officers is projected to grow nine percent between 2008 and 2018. New prisons are being built each year to accommodate the large number of inmates. Because of this, new job opportunities and positions as a corrections officer are becoming available. Correctional officers in local jails admit 13 million people a year and oversee the 800,000 offenders held in jails. Correctional officers in state and federal prison facilities guard the 1.6 million offenders who are housed there at any given time.
Con: Long Training
Initial training is long and requires an extensive amount of time away from family. Newly hired trainees typically receive instruction in a multitude of subjects, including institutional policies, regulations and operating procedures, as well as general custody and security standards. New correctional officers working in federal facilities are required to undergo 200 hours of formal training within the first year of employment. Also, they must complete 120 hours of specialized training at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons residential training center at Glynco, Georgia, within 60 days of their appointment to a facility. Experienced officers are expected to attend annual in-service training to keep informed about new developments and changing procedures.
Though every precaution is made to ensure the safety of staff at facilities across the country, being a corrections officer is dangerous. Every year, correctional officers are injured in physical altercations with inmates and subsequently have one of the highest rates of nonfatal on-the-job injuries. Violent offenders pose a threat to other inmates and corrections officers alike. Those in the corrections field have been known to carry an extremely high statistic rate of suicide, alcoholism and depression because of the nature of their job.
Con: Poor Working Conditons
Correctional officers work both indoors or outdoors in all weather conditions and climates. Some correctional facilities are well lit, climate controlled and ventilated, while the majority still stand to be outdated, overcrowded, hot and loud.
Con: Working Holidays and Odd Shifts
Prisoners need to be guarded 24/7. Because of this, new corrections officers should expect to work odd shifts, including all hours of the day and night, along with holidays. Correctional officers tend to work an eight-hour day, days days a week, in shifts that are constantly rotating. As with any job, as seniority is accumulated, better shift schedules and times will become available.