Prisons are part of the multi-billion dollar correctional industry in the United States, and it takes thousands of people to operate these facilities throughout the country. While the inmates do most of the manual labor in a working prison, there are also paid employees from the free world who are needed to make sure things run as smoothly as possible.
All correctional facilities require a large staff with administrators, counselors, doctors and nurses, and operational managers. They also need plenty of officers to monitor daily inmate activity and movement.
Amid this post-pandemic job market, prisons all over the country are hiring correctional officers on the spot with bonuses. So, if you are looking for a job, applying to be an officer at the local prison might be the closest thing to a guarantee that you’ll find. That is, if you meet the qualifications.
What kind of qualifications do prisons look for when hiring an officer? Can you be a prison officer with epilepsy?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
Prison officers in the United States have a starting pay rate of at least $18 per hour (according to salary data, depending on the state) plus benefits. The benefit package that comes with the job depends if you are working at a state or federal facility. Another major factor when it comes to compensation is if the prison is government-run or private.
Benefit packages often include health insurance (medical, dental, and vision), life insurance, long-term disability insurance, a cafeteria food plan, paid holidays, sick leave, PTO, a retirement plan, training, and uniforms.
So, what do you do when you work as a prison guard? The expectation at most facilities is that an officer will help maintain the security of the buildings, towers, and other posts. They intervene during emergencies and altercations, and gain physical control of the inmates.
Officers also supervise movement of inmates both inside and outside of the prison, conduct numerous daily counts, perform searches of inmates and their living quarters for contraband, and escort/transport inmates to predetermined locations.
Prison guards supervise inmates in their housing units and while they perform their work activities. Guards are also on-site during recreational, educational, and religious activities.
Other daily responsibilities of officers include conducting health and safety inspections, preparing and submitting reports on inmate violations of facility rules, security breaches, or other unusual behavior.
Officers are also expected to discuss minor problems and issues with inmates, while referring serious problems to administrative staff. They must also attempt to modify inmate behavior and attitudes by encouraging positive activities and discouraging bad decisions.
Prison guards also work in the visiting room. Which means they will supervise inmate visits with family and friends. They must also search visitors, inmates, and the visiting room for contraband.
You must be at least 18 years old to get a job as a prison officer, and you must be able to pass a background check. All candidates must be able to complete their training in defensive tactics and standard first aid/CPR before they are assigned to a facility.
Depending on the position, you might also be required to complete and maintain your firearms certification and possess a valid driver’s license.
Most prison officer positions require a high school diploma or GED. Some states require completion of a training program and/or a degree in criminal justice. You will likely have to take multiple tests to determine your cognitive abilities.
Most departments of correction also have some type of physical ability and agility requirements for their officers. Applicants will need to be at a certain level of physical fitness in order to qualify for the job.
Various tasks that a potential officer might be required to perform during a physical ability assessment are:
According to Correction Officer Training, the standards for these assessments, “are generally broken down by gender and by age group.”
Overall, the prison officer job requirements do vary by location, but these are the general basics throughout the United States.
When it comes to today’s blog post question, there, “are no federal laws barring people with epilepsy from working as a firefighter, police officer, correctional officer or in other law enforcement officer (LEO) jobs,” according to the Epilepsy Foundation.
There are actually federal civil rights laws and many state laws that protect the right to work in these professions. However, most private organizations do recommend that LEOs meet certain medical requirements as a precondition for employment.
These medical requirements do sometimes exclude people with epilepsy from serving as a correctional officer, and they have been adopted by many facilities throughout the United States. Some people argue, though, that these types of blanket policies violate federal civil rights and some state civil rights laws.
Under federal law, an employer generally, “cannot refuse to hire or fire an individual with a disability who is qualified to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation, because of his disability.”
There are two exceptions to this law. One is when the individual poses a, “direct threat,” to the health or safety of themselves or others, and the risk can’t be eliminated with reasonable accommodation. The other exception is when providing a reasonable accommodation would impose an undue burden or expense on the employer.
If you have epilepsy and have your seizures controlled through medication, you may be qualified to work as a prison officer. Here is the experience of one former prison guard with epilepsy.
“I have had epilepsy most of my adult life and was on Dilantin 200 mg every day for years. At the age of 45, I decided to become a correctional officer at a prison. They do quite a background check and medical check on you, and I was accepted and went to correctional officer training for seven weeks and was a correctional officer for 16 and a half years.
I did everything anyone else did. I had my own work crews with, at times, 20 inmates and I worked the yard alone at times with 200 inmates. If your seizures are pretty much controlled they should not treat you any differently than anyone else. Inform everyone about your condition and if your doctor is prescribing medication that is working.”
Do you have experience working as a correctional officer with epilepsy? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: State / Local Law Enforcement and Firefighter Positions https://www.epilepsy.com/living-epilepsy/independent-living/employment/safety-sensitive-jobs/state-local-law-enforcement-and-firefighter-positions#:~:text=Living%20with%20Epilepsy,-Independent%20Living&text=Be%20sure%20to%20include%20your,enforcement%20officer%20(LEO)%20jobs. Working In The Law--Are you able to work as a security guard or police officer while being epileptic? https://www.myepilepsyteam.com/questions/561015cf1fcaa30f1b00052e/working-in-law What jobs can I do? https://epilepsysociety.org.uk/living-epilepsy/work-employment-and-epilepsy/what-jobs-can-i-do Corrections Officer Job Description https://www.correctionalofficeredu.org/missouri/#:~:text=Applicants%20can%20qualify%20to%20become,year%2Dto%2Dyear%20basis. What are the physical ability requirements for a corrections officer? https://www.correctionalofficertraininghq.com/what-are-the-physical-ability-requirements-for-a-corrections-officer/
Natalie earned her Bachelors degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas, and has worked in television and radio during her career. When she was a 19-year-old sophomore at KU, she got her first on-air job as a sports reporter for a CBS-TV affiliate. In 2013, she was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the possession and production of marijuana. She was released in 2017. We've kept her last name off of our website so that she does not experience any professional hardship for her contributions.
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