Correctional Officer Job Duties and Responsibilities

The duties of a correctional officer will vary depending upon the type and level of facility in which they work. In general, there are some duties that are common to all correctional officers, however. If you are wondering whether working as a correctional officer could be right for you, consider the following duties that most of them are required to carry out:

Enforce Rules and Keep Order

Within a correctional facility, correctional officers are responsible for enforcing rules and regulations. They must maintain security in the facility by settling disputes that arise among inmates, preventing assaults and escapes, and monitoring and preventing disturbances. Correctional officers must enforce regulations through effective communication as well as the progressive use of sanctions, which involve punishments like loss of privileges. 

Monitor and Supervise Inmate Activities in All Areas of Facility

Inmates within correctional facilities must be monitored and supervised at all times in order to make sure that they obey rules and regulations. This involves coordinating and supervising all movements of inmates, and performing counts. Correctional officers must know exactly where each inmate is at all times. They provide prompt, efficient emergency response through a control center, to both staff members and inmates, as necessary. Correctional officers also oversee visitors and inmates within visitation areas, and escort prisoners between the correctional facility and courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations. 

Conduct Searches for Contraband Items

Correctional officers must search inmates and their living quarters for contraband. This could include weapons and drugs. They must also screen visitors and incoming mail to make sure that no contraband enters the correctional facility. These searches may be done by individual correctional officers or as part of a team. Correctional officers typically Inspect cells, dormitories, grounds, work locations and other control sites,  and search inmates in order to prevent concealment of drugs, weapons and other unauthorized materials.

Inspect Facilities to Make Sure They Meet Standards

Inspections of facilities are done periodically by correctional officers. Cells and other areas of prisons are checked for unsafe conditions, unsanitary conditions, contraband, any signs of a security breach, and any evidence of violations of rules and regulations. Any necessary maintenance or repairs must be logged and reported immediately so that they can be dealt with properly. 

Prepare Reports on Inmate Conduct

Correctional officers must provide oral and written reports of inmates’ behavior and conduct from time to time. This is done orally at shift change and in written form if and when an inmate violates the rules. Especially if a crime is committed by an inmate within the facility, correctional officers must provide information to law enforcement to help solve the crime. Correctional officers must fill out daily logs detailing inmate behavior and anything else of particular interest or note that occurred during their shift. 

Help Rehabilitate and Counsel Inmates 

Correctional officers are no longer just gatekeepers or security guards. More prisons and jails are training correctional officers in counseling, training and educating inmates. Correctional officers may participate in these rehabilitation efforts by scheduling work assignments for inmates, providing educational opportunities for them, and providing counseling to inmates. They must provide security during these rehabilitation activities and oversee work crews within various areas of the facility (and away from the facility at times). 

Duties of Advanced Correctional Officers

Correctional Officer Sergeants or Supervisors are considered within many facilities to be advanced or lead level correctional officers. They are entrusted with more responsibility and independence in decision-making than the correctional officers whom they supervise. Many of these advanced level correctional officers must have developed expertise, through training, education or experience, in one or more specialized areas. Some of the duties that a more advanced correctional officer may be required to perform include (but are not limited to):

  • Conducting formal investigations of correctional officers who are suspected of criminal or improper activities occurring on the job
  • Conducting formal investigations of inmates and inmate relatives and acquaintances suspected of smuggling drugs or other contraband
  • Interviewing inmates and correctional officers to obtain facts regarding suspected infractions
  • Serving as a K-9 Officer using a trained dog to control inmates, search for drugs and contraband, track escapees, suppress fights and patrol outside areas
  • Providing on-the-job training to less experienced correctional officers
  • Notifying the supervisor of performance problems and infractions of rules and regulations by other correctional officers
  • Assigning officers to specific duties on a security post
  • Ensuring that officers are given relief for meals, breaks and report writing
  • Maintaining control and discipline of inmates from security stations while patrolling grounds and residential units and while escorting individuals or groups to work areas and other activities
  • Submitting head counts to a supervisor
  • Searching for escapees and assisting in their capture and return to the institution
  • Act as a member of inmate classification committees and attend administration hearings

Other Duties of All Correctional Officers

Other duties that correctional officers at all levels must usually perform include:

  • Preparing reports of incidents and observations
  • Attending in-service training programs
  • Driving motor vehicles when transporting inmates, making outside security rounds, searching for escapees and related activities
  • Place inmates in handcuffs, restraining belts and leg irons
  • Operate manual and electronic locking systems
  • Subdue and restrain inmates during fights, riots and escape attempts
  • When standing an armed post, determine the need for use firearms and use them when necessary

Physical Requirements Most Correctional Officers Must Meet

In order to perform the above duties, correctional officers must be in good physical condition. This is why most correctional officer jobs require applicants to pass some sort of physical activity test. In general, most correctional officers must be able to do the following:

  • Walk or stand for up to an hour
  • See a person at a distance of a quarter mile or a target at 250 yards
  • Climb up and down 108 steps with a 20 lb. weight belt within 45 seconds
  • Run a quarter mile and apply handcuffs to someone within 2 minutes 35 seconds
  • Climb rungs of a ladder and retrieve an item within 7 seconds
  • Drag a 75 lb. dummy three minutes continuously for at least 694 feet
  • Complete an obstacle course within 58 seconds
  • Smell smoke and drugs
  • Lift, drag, carry objects of varying weight
  • Perform self-defense movements, including but not limited to:
    • Seatbelt control
    • The Gable grip
    • The rear body lock
    • Rear body lock takedown
    • Punch defense
    • Sit down from the seatbelt
    • Rotational control
    • Breaking alignment
  • Use firearms
  • Hear and detect movement