Thornton, Amanda - Corrections Officer

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[edit] Correctional Officer (Amanda Thornton)

Correctional Officer/Prison Ward Officer

[edit] General overview

A Correctional Officer works under the criminal justice system of Canada in a jail or penitentiary setting. Correctional Officers are to respect and apply the laws and regulations within the criminal justice system by encouraging and assisting offenders in a safe manner to become law-abiding citizens [1]. Correctional Officers maintain order through control and supervision of inmates. Correctional Officers assess safety concerns and risks and take the appropriate security measures in response[1]. Correctional Officers may be employed at smaller jails under municipal government or larger jails at the federal level[1].

[edit] Job duties and responsibilities

Correctional Officers have two primary career goals: protecting the community as well as the inmates, and promoting a positive influence and change into an inmate’s behaviour[2].

The major tasks of a Correctional Officer include: responsibility for supervision and control of inmates, monitoring the inmates at all times, searching inmates as well as their cells, settling any disputes between inmates inspect locks windows and doors for tampering, standing guard at gates and fences, monitoring cameras writing reports on inmate behaviour and activities, escorting inmates to and from cells, and acting as a role model[3].

[edit] Typical workday

Hours of work as a can vary as inmates require supervision 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Shifts range from 8-12 hours and are based on rotation[4]. For example one week an Officer may be on nights, and the next week working mornings. Some penitentiaries have stable shifts with no rotation, but rotation is often preferred. Shift duties vary on location and amount of Officers working in the penitentiary[4]. For example, one day a Correctional Officer may be doing cell checks and the next day could be standing guard at the gatehouse. Work environment changes between shifts as night shifts are generally quieter as the inmates are sleeping, while during the day it is much busier and loud as inmates are awake[5]. The work setting can vary as shifts change from inside to outside work[4].

Penitentiaries and jails do not close on weekends or holidays due to the constant supervision needed on the inmates and thus there is usually rotation of shifts on weekends and holidays. There may be opportunities for over-time based on amount of Officers on duty and the number of inmates[5].

The work setting can be high stress due to the danger of being in such close proximity to inmates with extensive criminal backgrounds[4]. Colleagues will also be under high stress, and will have little interaction with fellow Officers on duty unless there is a safety or security need[4].

Depending on the budget of the institution the work environment may be well lit and well heated while others may be dim, crowded and very warm due to the crowding[4].

Correctional Officers use various body armour protection, hand guns, batons, 2 way radios, and security cameras[6]. Technology that is used by Correctional Officers includes various data base management system software, database user interface and query software, and basic word processing software[6].

[edit] Educational requirements and other qualifications

The minimum educational requirement is a high school diploma[7]. However with more experience you are more likely to get a position. The higher the level of government penitentiary the more education you need. The federal government prefers to hire those with a Bachelor’s degree in criminology, sociology or psychology[7]. Provincial governments also prefer bachelor’s degree but will also accept diplomas from those that have studied criminology, law or abnormal psychology[7].

To further the likelihood to get a position is to take a specialized correctional program that also allows a work placement co-op to provide experience to those wishing to pursue corrections[3].

Aside from educational requirements, candidates are to pass a fitness test of muscular strength, endurance, cardio-respiratory fitness and flexibility[5]. Candidates require a driver’s license as well as CPR and first aid certification[3].

An example of the physical fitness test can be seen in the video below:

Recruiters look for volunteer experience that takes place in a social service setting such as a community centre, hospital or school program[5].

A major factor in the hiring procedure is looking for candidates that are emotionally mature and thus are less likely to hire candidates newly out of high-school[5].

The Application process involves various health checks (both mental and physical). Individuals go through police background checks and reviews, vision tests, language proficiency tests, and extensive interviews[7].

Further training takes place once a candidate has been hired. This training takes place for 30 days and is fully paid for[3]. This specialized training involves formal and on-the-job training on use of weapons, crisis management and diffusion skills, self-defense, and cognitive skills to deal with inmates[3]. This training reoccurs after every 5 years of employment to keep officers up to date with procedures [7].

These requirements are reflective of all provinces in Canada[5].

[edit] Related skills, interests, and abilities

Skills needed to become a Correctional Officer include: planning, supervising, time-management, physical strength, emotional stablity, observation, effective communication (verbal, non-verbal and active listening), strong writing, interpersonal skills, persuasion, critical thinking, judgement and decision making as well as self-control[6].Correctional Officers work in a dangerous environment with high risks of violence and they are required to possess the skills that will allow them to think fast and effectively in any given situation[5]. A Correctional Officer requires communication skills that will allow information to be given correctly and authoritatively to inmates but also effectively to other Officers and supervisors [7].

Correctional Officers require strong oral comprehension in order to listen and understand information as well as present thoughts, observations and guidance accurately. Correctional Officers also require reasoning abilities and problem solving as well as information gathering skills [6]. Selective attention is another necessary ability as concentration on a given task over long time periods may become difficult with various distractions occurring [6]. The last ability is reasonable assertiveness, as Correctional Officers are dealing with offenders with criminal history assertiveness is required to show authority and to motivate inmates to follow your instructions[6].

Personal characteristics a person should have if interested in pursuing corrections as a career are conventional interests that require guides and instructions, relationship building and caring or others[6].A person should demonstrate stable mental and emotional personal characteristics, integrity and attention to detail[6].

[edit] Relevance of Psychology undergraduate degree

An undergraduate degree in psychology is one of the three top degrees required for a career as a Correctional Officer[7]. Psychology is the study of how people behave, think and feel and this allows for a deeper understanding of the inmates in these jails and penitentiaries[5].

At Brock University there are various courses that can allow insight into the minds of these offenders such as the Psychology of Violent Predators. This course can influence the use of Risk Assessment and Intuition Judgement theories and methods such as the VRAG (Violence Risk Appraisal Guide) to determine which inmates may require more supervision and that may be more of a risk to the safety of the other inmates as well as the other Officers.

A course on critical Thinking can diminish any biases and illusory correlations of inmates and violent behaviour by assessing the situation and looking deeper into the reality of the threat of the inmates. Asking questions and making various observations can diminish anxiety, fear and danger felt in the profession.

Cognition and social psychology courses can help learn approaches of power and control and how various people react to power based on cognitive dissonance theory and the role of authority. Correctional Officers can learn how to gain control and influence over the inmates but can also assess how too much power can also create complications.

Personality and Neuropsychology courses shed some perspectives on the unique actions of inmates based on the cognitive processes and the contributions of their personality traits. The content of these courses allows psychological knowledge to develop that creates understanding of environmental influence on individuals as well as their internal influence on their behaviours. An example of this is through Lewinian theory that considers the various situational determinates of behaviour and personality and the influence it has on overall behaviour.

[edit] Salary potential

Salary earnings vary based on the location, employer and experience of the worker. The higher government levels of penitentiary pay Correctional Officers more[3].For example someone working in a federal penitentiary will make more than someone in the same position in a provincial penitentiary.

New recruits that are hired with little to no experience start off around $37,000 a year, where officers with years of experience can make $70,000 or more[3]. The average salary range is from $50,000- $60,000 a year[3].

In addition to salary as a Correctional Officer there are opportunities to earn more money through overtime. The position also comes with health benefits, paid vacation and pensions[3].

[edit] Job outlook

Correctional Officer positions are in demand as the Government of Canada predicts incarceration rates to increase. With an increase of inmates in these jails and penitentiaries the demand for Correctional Officers increases. The Correctional Service Officers predict an annual job growth rate of 2.1% from 2013-2016[8].

In addition to this expected job growth rate, over the next 5 years 77% of Canadian wardens are expected to retire due to the baby boomers reaching retirement[8]. This results in more managerial positions opening as well as the initial job growth.

[edit] To know more

If you are interested in becoming a Correctional Officer and want to know more, or if you are interested in the application process CLICK HERE[9]. For answers to frequently asked questions CLICK HERE[10].

The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services also provides a self-assessment CLICK HERE[11] for those curious to see of the profession of Correctional Officer is right for you.

[edit] Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Correctional Service Canada.(2014).Government of Canada Retrieved January 31, 2015, from
  2. Adult Correctional Officer Career. (2013). Justice Institute of British Columbia. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Correctional Officer Assessment.(2013). Retrieved February 6, 2015, from
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Work Environment. (2013). MyHR. Retrieved February 11, 2015, from
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 Working in Canada. (2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Correctional Officers and Jailers. (2010). O*net OnLine. Retrieved February 8, 2015, from
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 How to Become a Correctional Officer.(2013). Academic Invest. February 8, 2015, from officer
  8. 8.0 8.1 Correctional Service Officers. (2013). Government of Canada. Retrieved February 7, 2015, from
  9. Becoming a Correctional Officer: Application Process. (2013). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from
  10. Becoming a Correctional Officer: Frequently Asked Questions. (2013, January 1). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from corr_off/COFAQs/cs_coFAQ.html
  11. Becoming a Correctional Officer: Self Assessment. (2013, January 1). Retrieved February 9,2015, from assessment/cs_coself_assess.html
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