According to statistics provided by the NAACP, 2.3 million people currently are incarcerated in the United States. The U.S. makes up 5 percent of the world’s total population, yet it boasts 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.

The concept of imprisonment as punishment is not a new concept. England first used prisons as a means of punishing its citizens in the 1500s. America instituted its own system designed to penalize criminals following the American Revolution.

While early conditions in prisons were quite inhumane, the American justice system has moved away from the idea of punishment and instead toward the concept of rehabilitation. It is the belief that some prisoners are able to be reformed and returned to society. Corrections officers are a vital component in the incarceration and reformation of prisoners.

Corrections officers are charged with supervising prisoners who are serving jail terms as part of a punishment handed down by a court of law. They also are responsible for managing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial. They work in county jails, as well as state and federal correctional facilities.

Required Education

Most entry-level jobs within the corrections industry require a minimum of an associate degree. These two-year programs will focus on conflict resolution, information and record-keeping, counseling and the establishment of rules designed to aid in the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Bachelor’s degrees are required for correctional officers who wish to seek employment in a state or federal prison.
Coursework for this degree, which will take four years to complete, centers on best practices for working with criminals in a safe and ethical manner. Most quality bachelor degree programs will include hands-on training in the form of internships in addition to classroom studies.

Prior law enforcement experience or service in the military sometimes can be substituted in lieu of a college degree. Regional training academies used specifically for training correctional officers also are available in some states. Training programs offered at these academies are based on guidelines created by the American Correctional Association.
Future Outlook

Demand for correctional officers is directly linked to population growth, according to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks job growth for business and industry. According to their figures, demand for correctional officers is expected to increase by 5 percent over the next decade.

The average annual salary for correctional officers is $39,040.

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