How to Become a Correctional Officer in Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Corrections (ADC) reports that, as of November 2022, 19,000 inmates are housed within its 20 state prison facilities. Additionally, there are almost 3400 inmates incarcerated in the federal prison in Arkansas. Still more inmates are confined within the state’s county jails.  As of November 2022, there are 30 males on Arkansas’s Death Row, and no females. 

Arkansas Correctional Industries (ARC) is a program within the ADC that trains inmates in marketable skills through a variety of programs in work settings that mimic private industry. These inmates produce goods, products and services. Revenues garnered from the ARC are put back into the program, allowing the training of more inmates in more fields. It is hoped that the efforts of the ARC will give inmates the opportunity for worthwhile employment while incarcerated and the ability to work in a meaningful occupation upon release from incarceration.

Arkansas Paws in Prison is another program found in the ADC which has proven beneficial to all involved. Selected inmates are given the opportunity to train rescue dogs from shelters, teaching them basic obedience skills and socializing the dogs to make them adoptable. Since its inception in 2011, Paws in Prison is now found within seven ADC facilities and more than 2000 rescue dogs have been trained by inmates and adopted by the public. This program is valuable not just because it saves lives of dogs who would otherwise have been euthanized, but also because it teaches inmates skills that help them to rehabilitate and reenter into society successfully.

Large prison populations such as those found in Arkansas need educated, trained, competent correctional officers to manage and supervise them. The ADC currently employs over 6000 people. Jobs for correctional officers can be challenging, rewarding, and satisfying, as it is possible to make a difference in the lives of those who are being rehabilitated in the correctional system. 

view of prison officer leading prisoner in handcuffs in corridor

WHAT DOES A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER DO

Correctional officers in Arkansas are responsible for maintaining security and overseeing the work of inmates within a correctional facility operated by the ADC. They must also be keen observers of inmate behavior, and able to document this behavior as required. 

Correctional Officer I positions (the entry-level correctional officer jobs in the ADC) involve supervising the security and conduct of inmates at all times within the prison facility. Some correctional officers are also responsible for maintaining perimeter security from a watchtower, keeping an eye on any potential disturbances or escape attempts. First-level correctional officers may also log visitors in to the facility at the front gate, and perform security checks of facilities and grounds, including cell searches and strip searches. They are expected to maintain logs and accompany inmates to work, visitations, and court, and to write incident reports and take disciplinary action as needed when inmates violate rules. 

First-level correctional officers are exposed to danger on a daily basis, and must expect frequent shift work and on-call duties. Correctional officers must be able to communicate clearly, confidently, and firmly at all times and be able to maintain their cool in stressful, heated situations. Having the ability to work as part of a team is vital, as correctional officers must be supportive of their co-workers at all times. 

BECOMING A CORRECTIONAL OFFICER IN ARKANSAS

In order to work for the ADC as a correctional officer, you must meet certain requirements:

  • You must be at least 18 years of age
  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • You must have a high school diploma or GED
  • You must have a valid driver’s license
  • You must pass a criminal background check and drug test
  • You must have no felony convictions on record

ARKANSAS EDUCATION AND CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS

The ADOC requires all new correctional officers to undergo 280 hours of pre-service training at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy in England, AR, in Lonoke County. This training is accredited by the American Correctional Association and may be conducted at the Training Academy, via e-Academy, or at each individual correctional facility. Training will include:

  • Physical training
  • Firearms training
  • Defensive tactics and self-defense
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Taser usage
  • Stress management
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Report writing
  • Inmate grievances
  • Inmate rights and responsibilities
  • Supervising inmates
  • Use of force
  • Use of restraints
  • Prison policies and procedures
  • Vehicle searches
  • Transportation officer training

Once you have been assigned to a state correctional facility, you will receive more on-the-job training during your first year of employment. You must continue to complete 40 hours of continuing education each year you serve as a state correctional officer in Arkansas. This annual mandatory refresher training will include:

  • Anti-fraud code of ethics training
  • CPR/First Aid/AED
  • Defensive tactics
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Ethics/conduct standards
  • Firearms qualification
  • Fire safety
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Report writing
  • Sexual abuse/assault/misconduct
  • Sexual harassment
  • Suicide prevention and intervention
  • Supervising inmates
  • Inmate rights and responsibilities
  • Use of force
  • Use of restraints

OPTIONAL PATH TO CERTIFICATION

The ADC will consider credit for those who have experience working as corrections officers in other states, on a case-by-case basis. Candidates with reciprocal eligibility may still need to attend training at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy before beginning work for the ADC.

Criminal Justice Degrees

The ADC does not require a college degree in order to be eligible for a Correctional Officer I position. 

ARKANSAS CORRECTIONAL OFFICER SALARY

The Arkansas Department of Corrections notes that the position of Arkansas Correctional Officer I has a starting salary of $37,715.86 annually as of 2022, with a listed salary range of $29,046 to $42,117. 

Additionally, a comprehensive benefits program is provided to all employees. These include:

  • Life insurance
  • 8 hours of sick leave per month
  • 8 to 15 hours of annual leave per month
  • 11 paid holidays, including your birthday
  • Arkansas Public Employees Retirement System Retirement Plan

Additional benefits available to employees include:

  • Arkansas Diamond 457 deferred retirement investment plan
  • ARBenefits, including health insurance and additional life insurance for employees and families
  • Arkansas State Employee Benefit Advisors, providing:
    • Cancer insurance
    • Critical care insurance
    • Dental insurance
    • Hospital indemnity insurance
    • Identity theft protection insurance
    • Long-term disability insurance
    • Short-term disability insurance
    • Vision insurance
    • Whole life insurance
  • Employee associations, including:
    • Arkansas Association of Correctional Employees Trust (AACET)
    • American Correctional Association (ACA)
    • Southern States Correctional Association (SSCA)
    • Arkansas State Employee Association (ASEA)
    • State Employee Benefit Corporation (SEBCO), including:
      • Homeowners insurance
      • Automobile insurance
      • Statewide van pool for commuters
      • Discount purchasing plans

ARKANSAS CORRECTIONAL OFFICER JOB PROSPECTS

When new correctional officer positions are available, they will be posted at arcareers.arkansas.gov. Applications for correctional officer positions are only accepted online at arcareers.arkansas.gov.. You may also contact the DOC Recruiter at (870) 850-8578 or DOC.Careers@arkansas.gov to inquire about state correctional officer jobs in Arkansas. You may apply for more than one position at the same time, but must submit a separate online application for each position for which you apply.

TOP EMPLOYERS OF CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS IN ARKANSAS

In addition to the Arkansas Department of Corrections, federal correctional officer jobs may also be available at the Forrest City Federal Correctional Complex, in Forrest City, AR. Jobs at facilities like this, within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, will be advertised at usajobs.gov when available.