Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor

Substance Abuse Counselors in correctional facilities have an important job, as well as one that keeps them quite busy. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 65 percent of the U.S. prison population has substance use disorders. Another 20 percent of inmates did not meet the criteria for a substance use disorder, but were under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they committed their crime. 

Correctional Substance Abuse Counselors act as counselors, authorities, and in intercessory roles, with their main responsibility being to provide the inmate with a positive, helping relationship. It can be difficult at times to balance that responsibility with the need to maintain custodial and security control over the inmates who are assigned to their care. By modeling a positive authority figure, Correctional Substance Abuse Counselors can help clients to confront negative perceptions and form more realistic perceptions. 

Correctional Substance Abuse Counselors are employed within federal, state and local correctional facilities. Let’s take a closer look at the job of a Correctional Substance Abuse Counselor.

Prisoner with Substance Abuse issues

Job Duties of a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor

Some of the job duties of a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor include:

  • Coordinating offender rehabilitation programs within facility or community setting 
  • Providing intensive counseling services to alcohol and drug dependent offenders
  • Screening offenders to determine eligibility for programs
  • Assessing offenders’ strengths, weaknesses and treatment needs
  • Orienting offenders to treatment program
  • Participating in treatment planning, as well as individual and/or group counseling
  • Checking offender progress periodically and recommending changes as necessary
  • Case management
  • Providing crisis intervention services in response to emotional and/or physical distress
  • Making referrals to programs for medical and/or psychological intervention
  • Ensuring adherence to infection control practices
  • Conducting census checks
  • Developing and maintaining comprehensive treatment files including treatment plans and progress notes, discharge summaries, crisis intervention and referrals
  • Assisting in program development and implementation
  • Assisting other staff in performing difficult or hazardous investigations
  • Preparing detailed reports for classification committees and other groups evaluating offender progress
  • Testing and evaluating offenders at any state of correctional process in terms of psychological, educational, vocational, social and medical needs
  • Coordinating volunteer programs
  • May be required to physically restrain inmates, quell disturbances and otherwise assist security forces in emergencies
  • May be required to collect urine samples and/or conduct on-site urinalysis to determine offender drug and/or alcohol usage
  • Educating offenders on substance abuse issues and availability of resources
  • Escorting offenders

Skills and Knowledge that a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor Should Have

A successful Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor should have:

  • Knowledge of addictions, recovery and relapse prevention
  • Knowledge of criminal behavior analysis through sociological and psychological concepts
  • Knowledge of social, emotional, economic factors contributing to criminal behavior
  • Knowledge of counseling and interviewing techniques 
  • Knowledge of individual/social factors relating to personal adjustment
  • Knowledge of community resources
  • Knowledge of correctional practices
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Good oral and written communication skills
  • Ability to prepare clear, concise reports and case histories
  • Good time management skills
  • Good computer skills

Qualifying for a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor Job

The qualifications that you must meet for a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor job will vary based upon the size and governmental level of the correctional facility. At the federal level, for example, Corrections Substance Abuse Counselors must have either a bachelor’s degree in counseling or a related field, or a combination of education and experience.  You must also be a U.S. citizen, pass a background check, and be younger than 37 years old.

If you are applying for a Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor job at the state or local prison level, requirements will vary. Most require at least a bachelor’s degree, and some will require experience as well.

Education and Training for Corrections Substance Abuse Counselors

At the federal level, Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor jobs may be at the GS-09 or GS-11 level. This requires a bachelor’s degree, at minimum, or a combination of education and experience in the field. 

Education and training for other Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor jobs will also mandate a bachelor’s degree. Coursework should include:

  • Sociology
  • Correctional administration
  • Criminal justice
  • Political science
  • Psychology
  • Social work
  • Counseling
  • Behavioral sciences

Salaries and Jobs for Corrections Substance Abuse Counselors

Salaries for federal Corrections Substance Abuse Counselors start at the GS-09 level, which begins 9 $47,097/year and rises to $61,237/year. They may also be at the GS-11 level, which starts at 56,983/year and rises to $74,074/year.

The best way to determine salaries for other Corrections Substance Abuse Counselor positions is to look at recent job openings, which, as of May 2022, include:

  • Correctional Substance Abuse Counselor, Wethersfield, CT
    • Salary: $59,816 to $78,102/year
  • BH/DID Program Administrator, Kentucky Department of Corrections, KY
    • Salary: $46,9907/year
  • Substance Abuse Counselor, County of Delaware, Hill Correctional, Thornton, PA
    • Salary: $19.23/hour ($39,998/year)
  • Substance Use Counselor, State of Ohio, Orient, OH
    • Salary: $24.98/hour ($51,958/year)
  • Substance Abuse Specialist III, Women’s Community Correctional Center, Kailua, Oahu, HI
    • Salary: $4252 to $5178/month ($51,024 to $62,136/year)

Professional Certification for Correctional Substance Abuse Counselors

Some state correctional facilities mandate that their Correctional Substance Abuse Counselors hold professional state licensure or certification as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor. For example, California’s Department of Ehalth Care Services offers Counselor Certification for substance abuse treatment counselors. This is often known as CADC Certification – standing for Certified Alcohol Drug Counselor—and is usually offered through various state-related organizations, and offers levels (I, II, etc.) It might also be called Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) or Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ADC), depending upon the state

 Other professional organizations offering voluntary certification include, but are not limited to:

  • National Certification Commission for Addiction Professionals (NCCAP)- offer National Certified Addiction Counselor Level I (NCAC I), National Certified Addiction Counselor Level II (NCAC II), and Master Addiction Counselor (MAC)
  • Certified Chemical Dependency Professional (CCDP)- this certification is usually obtained by completing a graduate certificate program at a college or university