Corrections officers handle numerous tasks as they maintain the security of correctional facilities. Supervising populations of incarcerated individuals, making sure rules are followed and reporting any violations, keeping facilities and people safe and preparing inmates for life outside prison walls are a few of the important duties assigned to corrections officers. The work of a corrections officer is never done, requiring constant staffing and performance day and night.

Supervising the Inmates

Overseeing the individuals serving their time in the correctional facility is the chief responsibility of correctional officers, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This responsibility means supervising all types of activities, from work to meal times to recreational activities, the Occupational Information Network reported. If inmates must be transferred somewhere, like a medical facility or a courtroom, corrections officers are responsible for preparing them for transport, with restraints such as handcuffs if necessary, and escorting them. Supervising prisoners means reporting on their conduct and on any prison rules or policies they may break.

Correctional officers also have to be alert for the possibility of inmates harming each other and know how to safely and appropriately step in if an assault or altercation occurs.

Enforcing the Rules

In a facility where individuals convicted of breaking the law are being kept against their will, chaos can be dangerous. Rules and procedures that establish and maintain strict order within the facility can help protect against riots, assaults, escapes and safety threats. Inside prison walls, corrections officers are the ones who face the responsibility of making sure these rules are followed.

Ensuring compliance with the rules of a prison may mean searching an inmate or his or her cell for contraband – items not permitted, often because they are dangerous – or for other potentially harmful items. Corrections officers may also examine mail sent by or to the inmate to make sure that it doesn’t contain any illicit contents.

In addition to enforcement and disciplinary duties, corrections officers often have some degree of administrative duties, as well. They may be responsible for developing schedules for inmates, assigning them job duties and keeping a log of their behaviors.

Maintaining Safety and Security

Although the perpetrators convicted of committing nonviolent offenses may still get sentenced to jail time, keeping the public safe is an important reason for incarcerating convicted criminals. Maintaining security at a correctional facility is a crucial part of a correctional officer’s job duties.

As a correctional officer, keeping the public safe means preventing prisoner escapes or security breaches. Inspecting facilities, including inmates’ cells and security measures, is one way corrections officers keep the public safe. Measures for maintaining security can range from conducting simple prisoner headcounts to extensive inspections of locks, fences, gates and other mechanisms. Corrections officers also have a duty to reasonably protect inmates from injuries and harm within the prison walls, at the hands of other prisoners and prison staff who may not always behave professionally.

Naturally, correctional officers must also take precautions to keep themselves safe, especially when interceding in a dangerous situation such as a fight or assault between inmates or a riot. This occupation has one of the highest injury rates, the BLS reported.

Working Toward Rehabilitation

Unless inmates are serving life sentences, the expectation is that they will eventually be free men and women once again upon completing their jail time. Rehabilitating them into productive members of society who are unlikely to commit further criminal offenses doesn’t just happen effortlessly. It requires work on the parts of both the incarcerated individual and the jail personnel – like corrections officers – to make meaningful changes.

Some corrections officers are themselves responsible for inmate counseling duties, while others simply coordinate their appointments with a counselor. In the interests of rehabilitation, corrections officers may have job duties that include educating inmates, especially those serving long sentences, on what to expect in life after prison. Through some programs, incarcerated individuals can advance their education to help them be better equipped for life outside the prison walls but inside the law.

In an area known as community corrections, corrections officers may also work with formerly incarcerated individuals after their release from prison or with convicted criminals sentenced to probation or community service in place of jail time.

Additional Resources

What Is a Corrections Officer?

Is It Dangerous to Be a Corrections Officer?

Do Corrections Officers Only Work in Jails or Are There Other Career Options?