If you live near a state or federal prison, and you are on the hunt for a job, chances are you’ve seen a lot of job postings lately for correctional officer positions. Where I live, there are three prisons within 20 miles. They are currently holding job fairs and offering big hiring bonuses because all three facilities are so short staffed.
Seeing all of these postings got me thinking about what it takes to be a prison officer. What are the requirements, and what are the restrictions? This topic also fits quite nicely with a question we received here at Prison Insight: Can you be a prison officer with asthma?
So, today’s blog post will cover the following topics:
- Prison officer job requirements
- Qualifications and restrictions for applicants
- Can you be a prison officer with asthma?
Prison officer job requirements
There’s no doubt that working inside a correctional facility can be a stressful and dangerous job. According to the Bureau of Labor & Statistics, correctional officers and jailers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of any occupation. Oftentimes, these injuries are the result of a confrontation with inmates.
Prisons are open and operational 24/7, which means officers work in 12-hour shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. A career in corrections isn’t easy, but it does give you the chance to make a difference in the lives of inmates.
When it comes to the general job requirements of a correctional officer, they are responsible for the protection of life and property at the prison or jail, while enforcing all of the laws and regulations of the state and the facility. As this Florida correctional officer job posting explains:
“This work requires the ability to effectively use computer systems and electronic equipment, involves an element of personal danger and entails frequent contact with inmates and the public under routine and emergency conditions. Those deputies assigned to specialized units may have additional responsibilities and/or qualifications.”
The essential duties and responsibilities of a corrections officer includes constant radio contact with the facility and staff and responding to requests for assistance. Officers are required to do a lot of searches for contraband — of an inmate’s physical person, the cell blocks, and other living areas.
Officers also transport inmates to both on-site and off-site locations, search incoming mail and packages, conduct inmate head counts daily, and maintain accurate records. The number one job of a correctional officer, though, is to maintain order and security in the facility.
Qualifications and restrictions for applicants
The qualifications required for prison officer applicants do vary a bit based on location and type of facility. But there are many commonalities. The minimum age requirement is either 18 or 19, and a high school diploma or GED is a must.
Most facilities require that applicants be United States citizens, with no felony convictions on their record. Misdemeanors are usually okay, as long as there is nothing involving “moral character” —i.e. drug crimes or crimes against women and children. If an applicant is former military, they can’t have a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge.
The physical qualifications also vary, but every facility does require good eyesight. Each eye must have at least 20/40 vision, and using a correctable (contacts/glasses) is just fine. Officers must have the ability to use visual depth, as well as distance and color perception and night and peripheral vision.
Most facilities or departments require a physical abilities examination that applicants must pass before they are hired. Because of the physical demands of the job, officers are required to have good cardiovascular strength and stamina. And, they must be able to engage in violent and physical confrontations.
Prison officers must be able to use both hands simultaneously and have manual and finger dexterity. Flexibility of the upper body and limbs is also important, as well as strength in the upper and lower body, legs, back, arms, and hands.
Take a look at this officer job description, where they detailed the physical requirements of the job.
“Must possess coordination in legs, arms, hands, eye-hand, steadiness of hand/arm, physical speed, quick reflexes, balance/equilibrium and be able to stand for long periods of time. Ability to run, walk, bend/lean over, twist/turn and maneuver into and out of small spaces,” this posting reads.
When it comes to job skills, applicants need to have the ability to make decisions and adapt, and to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing. They also need to be able to follow instructions, interact well with others, maintain high ethics, maintain personal hygiene, and maintain their physical agility and strength.
The certificate and license requirements do vary by location, but most places require that you have a valid driver’s license and some kind of law enforcement training or secondary education in criminal justice. There are some locations that do offer a training program that allow officers to apprentice on the job.
Can you be a prison officer with asthma?
If you have asthma and would like to be a correctional officer, it’s not a deal breaker. You can be hired if you have asthma, but you will have to have it under control and be well medicated because you will have to pass your minimum running and agility tests.
A candidate will be considered “not suitable if the asthma causes significant loss of functional ability in relation to demands of the job.”
Do you think you could handle the job of a correctional officer? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Correctional Officers and Bailiffs https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm Lake County Detention Deputy Job Posting https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Lake-County-Sheriff's-Office---Florida/jobs?jk=6767de54b696efec&start=0 Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Officer https://www.bop.gov/jobs/positions/index.jsp?p=Correctional%20Officer Prison Officer Applicants – A guidance on health and fitness standards https://www.europris.org/wp-content/uploads/kms/301/2317/Prison%20Officer%20Applicants%20Health%20Information%20and%20fitness%20standard%20guidance%202019.pdf