A corrections officer, sometimes known as a bailiff or a detention officer (depending on the facility in which the individual works), works in a court, jail, prison, or another location that houses convicted criminals or individuals awaiting trial. These individuals guard prisoners and enforce court or prison rules. Corrections officers file incident and rules violation reports, search prisoners’ incoming and outgoing mail, search prisoners and cells to assure prison safety and security, and transfer prisoners between facilities. Corrections officers also search visitors or their belongings in order to assure prison safety. Finally, corrections officers guard prisoners to make sure they follow prison rules and to make sure they cannot harm themselves or others, watch prisoners to make sure they perform the work that they are supposed to perform, and perform a variety of other tasks.
The three main types of corrections officers include bailiffs, corrections officers, and detention officers.
- Bailiffs are criminal justice professionals who guard prisoners while they are in court, protect the judge and jury, and assure that the court’s rules are followed.
- Corrections guard prisoners in a county jail, a prison, or another location.
- Detention officers guard prisoners while they are awaiting trial.
A corrections officer typically earns between $26,000 and $51,000 a year, but some corrections officers may earn more or less than this amount depending on the area in which they work. In fact, in some areas a corrections officer may make as little as $18,000, only slightly more than the federal minimum wage, or as much as $65,000 a year. However, the specific amount a corrections officer can earn depends not only on the area in which the officer works, but also on the individual’s employer, experience, and position. A corrections officer who works as a correctional supervisor or manager, who works in a federal prison, or who has additional experience may make significantly more money per year than a typical corrections officer may.
The specific requirements necessary to become a corrections officer vary according to state and facility. However, most facilities require a high school diploma or a General Educational Development (GED) credential and completion of a correctional training program. In addition, you may be required to complete a series of criminal justice courses or earn a degree. A bachelor’s degree typically is required for a position in a federal facility. Finally, you likely will have to obtain a certain amount of experience in a related field (typically two to three years of experience in a supervisory position), or meet other requirements in order to obtain an available correctional position.