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Juvenile Detention Officer  What They Do

Just the Facts


Insider Info

dotJuvenile detention officers work closely with at-risk children in trouble with the law. Your help may be the spark that helps some troubled kids turn their lives around.

"These kids need professional help and guidance so they can have the opportunity to become productive members of society," says Patricia Smith, a social worker.

dotJuvenile detention officers are always working with or around jailed kids. This could be in a conventional juvenile detention facility or a specialized "school."

Typical duties could be monitoring inmates' eating, exercising and working activities, enforcing discipline, and escorting clients to court or family meetings. Some detention officers may participate in programs created to help at-risk kids, such as life skills and substance abuse workshops.

"I'm first a corrections officer and therefore have to be sure of the safety of the kids and the unit. I also do groups such as meditations, problem solving or other topics," says Clifford Johnson, juvenile officer.

dotThese correction officers work for courts or social service agencies. They may visit incarcerated youth and their families, track court progress and make recommendations about possible punishments and services.

dotVerbal and written communication skills are extremely important for this career. Strong communication skills can de-escalate a dangerous situation without a physical fight. Other people involved in the system (social service agencies, the court and the families) require detailed progress reports.

"Communication is the most important tool we use on this job. It's essential to properly communicate with these kids and remember to treat them as you'd like to be treated," says juvenile detention officer Ross Stuart.

dotA juvenile detention officer's days and hours depend on where they work. Facilities require 24-hour monitoring, so weekend and evening shifts aren't uncommon. Youth workers for social service agencies or the courts may have an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. If there's a crisis, overtime or on-call work is a strong possibility.

Because youth experts must communicate with so many people, there is a heavy reliance on solid written and oral communication skills.

dotThis is one job where it pays to stay in shape. Detention officers may frequently have to safely restrain angry kids or break up fights. There's always the possibility of getting hurt by physical violence. Some employers may require potential employees to take a physical fitness test.

"Physical and verbal attacks are common. Negatives of this job [include] getting too emotionally attached with some of the clients. When you hear they have reoffended, it can break your heart," says J.C. Van, youth worker.

At a Glance

Work closely with at-risk children in trouble with the law

  • The public's perception of youth crime is driving growth in this field
  • Good communication skills and physical conditioning are important
  • Criminology, social work and psychology are good backgrounds