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Working Conditions for a Correctional Officer

Introduction 

A Correctional Officer (CO) provides ongoing supervision of adults in custody (AICs) through observation and person-to-person supervision. COs protect the public daily by keeping our prisons secure and by role modeling appropriate behavior. COs are credited with creating a safe environment by preventing incidents such as escapes, assaults, and contraband trafficking. 

Responsibilities

Specific duties vary and may include being assigned to towers, gate control, housing units, segregation, recreation, mobile patrol, special details, mail room, inmate work crews, and hospital watches - just to name a few. 

Correctional Officers (COs) are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a prison facility. COs maintain security and adult in custody (AIC) accountability to prevent disturbances, assaults, and escapes.  

Regardless of the setting, COs maintain order within the institution and enforce rules and regulations. To help ensure AICs are orderly and obey rules, COs monitor the activities and supervise the work assignments of AICs. Sometimes, COs must search AICs and their living quarters for contraband like weapons or drugs, settle disputes between AICs, and enforce discipline. COs periodically inspect facilities, cells, and other areas of the institution for unsanitary conditions, contraband, fire hazards, and any evidence of rule infractions. In addition, they routinely inspect locks, window bars, grilles, doors, and gates for signs of tampering, and most importantly, COs conduct frequent and routine counts at night and during the day to ensure all AICs are accounted for.

COs report orally and in writing on AIC conduct and on the quality and quantity of work done by AICs. COs also report security breaches, disturbances, rule violations, and any unusual occurrences, and they typically keep a daily log or record of their activities. COs cannot show favoritism and must report any AIC who violates the rules. Should the situation arise, they help the responsible law enforcement authorities investigate crimes committed within their institution. 

Working Environment

Most Correctional Officers (COs) are employed in one of 14 State Department of Corrections prisons, watching over the approximately 14,000 adults in custody (AICs) who are incarcerated there at any given time. Although prisons can be dangerous places to work, prison populations are more stable than jail populations, and COs in prisons know the security and custodial requirements of the adults in custody with whom they are dealing. 

In prison facilities with direct supervision cell blocks, COs work unarmed. They are equipped with communications devices so they can summon help if necessary. These COs often work in a cellblock alone, or with another CO, among the 50 to 100 AICs who reside there. The COs enforce regulations primarily through their interpersonal communications skills and through the use of progressive sanctions, such as the removal of some privileges. 

In the highest security facilities, where the most dangerous AICs are housed, COs often monitor the activities of AICs from a centralized control center with closed-circuit television cameras and a computer tracking system. In such an environment, the AICs may not see anyone but COs for days or weeks at a time and may leave their cells only for showers, solitary exercise time, or visitors. Depending on the AICs' security classification within the institution, COs may have to restrain AICs in handcuffs and leg irons to safely escort them to and from cells and other areas and to see authorized visitors. COs also escort AICs between the institution to courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations outside the institution.