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Correctional Officer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Guards inmates in penal or rehabilitative institutions in accordance with established regulations and procedures. May guard prisoners in transit between jail, courtroom, prison, or other point. Includes deputy sheriffs and police who spend the majority of their time guarding prisoners in correctional institutions.

This career is part of the Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security cluster Correction Services pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Conducts head counts to ensure that each prisoner is present.
  • Monitors conduct of prisoners in housing unit, or during work or recreational activities, according to established policies, regulations, and procedures, to prevent escape or violence.
  • Inspects conditions of locks, window bars, grills, doors, and gates at correctional facilities to ensure security and help prevent escapes.
  • Records information, such as prisoner identification, charges, and incidences of inmate disturbance, and keeps daily logs of prisoner activities.
  • Searches prisoners and vehicles and conducts shakedowns of cells for valuables and contraband, such as weapons or drugs.
  • Uses weapons, handcuffs, and physical force to maintain discipline and order among prisoners.
  • Guards facility entrances to screen visitors.
  • Inspects mail for the presence of contraband.
  • Maintains records of prisoners' identification and charges.
  • Processes or books convicted individuals into prison.

Insider Info

Dig into the details and check out what people in this job have to say about their work.



Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 10 lbs., sometimes up to 20 lbs. You might do a lot of walking or standing, or you might sit but use your arms and legs to control machines, equipment or tools.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Exposure to pollutants, gases, dust, fumes, odors, poor ventilation, etc.
  • Exposed to disease and infections more than once a month through work such as patient care, laboratory work, and sanitation control
  • Lighting is either extremely bright or inadequate
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Work in this occupation involves making repetitive motions more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves standing more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation involves walking or running more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Moving the arms, legs and torso together when the whole body is in motion
  • Using muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring
  • Short periods of running, jumping, or throwing
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person
  • Exerting oneself physically over long periods of time without getting out of breath
  • Lifting, pushing, pulling, or carrying objects
  • Using abdominal and lower back muscles repeatedly or over time without tiring

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Deputy -- Maintains law and order and serves legal processes of courts.
  • Juvenile Detention Officer -- Ensures the security and safety of young people below the age of 18 who have been detained for crimes committed.
  • Police Officer -- Patrols assigned beat on foot, on motorcycle, in patrol car, or on horseback to control traffic, prevent crime or disturbance of peace, and arrest violators.
  • Security Guard -- Guards property against theft and vandalism, controls access to establishments, maintains order and enforces regulations at public events and within establishments.
  • Detention Deputy --
  • Gate Watchman --