Juvenile Correctional Officer Career

According to Youth.gov, during any single year, 2.1 million youth under the age of 18 are arrested in the United States. Although juvenile incarceration rates have declined over the past few years, there are still 1.7 million juvenile delinquency cases deposed each year in our nationwide juvenile court system. Youth are referred to the juvenile justice system for many different types of offenses. These include, but are not limited to, offenses against persons, property offenses, drug law violations, and public order offenses. 

Per the Prison Policy Initiative, there are 48,000 juveniles in the U.S. locked up in incarceration facilities on any given day, due to violations of the criminal justice system or juvenile justice system. Since 2000, the number of youths confined to these facilities has fallen by 60 percent. This has occurred for a variety of reasons, including the fact that many juvenile incarceration facilities were closed and repurposed, programs were developed to serve juveniles in their homes and communities, laws were changed to make certain offenses non-jailable, and other rehabilitative measures were put into place. 

Juvenile in prison

For the juveniles who are still incarcerated in facilities, however, juvenile correctional officers are very much needed to keep order, provide counsel, and set good, positive examples as role models. Juvenile correctional officers work with incarcerated minors and those who have been charged with crimes and are awaiting trial. Types of facilities in which juveniles are incarcerated and which need juvenile correctional officers include, per Prison Policy Initiative:

  • Detention centers
  • Long-term secure facilities
  • Residential treatment facilities
  • Group homes
  • Ranch/wilderness camps
  • Reception/diagnostic centers
  • Boot camps
  • Indian country facilities
  • Shelters

Here, we will discuss what a juvenile correctional officer’s duties and responsibilities are and how you can become a juvenile correctional officer.

Job Duties of Juvenile Correctional Officers

Juvenile correctional officers must provide safety and security to incarcerated juveniles, defined as youth under the age of 18, and ensure their well-being. Duties vary depending upon the type of juvenile facility in which one works, and may include:

  • Reporting breaches of security or inappropriate behavior
  • Enforcing rules and regulations of the facility
  • Providing intensive security for juveniles at higher risk/higher security status
  • Completing incident reports when disorder or violence occurs
  • Completing daily reports
  • Supervising inmates throughout the day and at all times
  • Patrolling the facility to make sure it remains clean, secure and well-maintained
  • Transporting inmates to and from court, medical facilities, educational facilities, recreational activities
  • Providing vocational counseling and counseling referrals for juveniles and their families
  • Following medical orders and dispensing medication to juvenile inmates
  • Observing and recording mental and physical health and behavioral concerns
  • Observing and recording the progress of juvenile inmates
  • Teaching juveniles basic life skills, problem-solving skills, behavioral management, and rehabilitation skills
  • Working on therapeutic teams to facilitate group and individual counseling sessions

Education and Training for Juvenile Correctional Officers

The education required for juvenile correctional officers is the same as that of adult correctional officers, and for state and local jobs, usually consists of a high school diploma or GED. Some juvenile correctional officer positions require college degrees, in fields such as psychology, criminal justice, juvenile justice, and sociology. Check here for a listing of schools in each state that offer such degrees and certificates. 

Training for juvenile correctional officer jobs usually occurs after hire, and often, like training for adult correctional officer positions, involves attending an academy for a number of weeks, where both in-person and practical training will be administered. Topics that are covered in this training may include:

  • First aid/CPR
  • Restraining techniques
  • Use of force
  • Inmate health
  • Record keeping
  • Security
  • Admissions
  • Youth supervision
  • Juvenile rights
  • Policies and procedures of the facility 

Getting a Juvenile Correctional Officer Job

In addition to meeting the educational requirements listed above, most juvenile correctional officer positions require that you:

  • Are at least 21 years old
  • Are a U.S. citizen
  • Have no felony convictions 
  • Pass a physical strength and ability/mobility test
  • Pass medical examination
  • Pass psychological exam
  • Pass a background check
  • Pass a polygraph exam
  • Pass drug screening tests
  • May need to pass a written examination 

Salary and Job Outlook for Juvenile Correctional Officers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor does not classify juvenile correctional officers differently than adult correctional officers. They report the average annual salary for correctional officers as of May 2020 at $52,340. 

In California, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation lists the monthly pay, after completion of the training academy, for correctional officers (both adult and youth) at $4660 per month ($55,920 annually). For youth correctional counselors, the monthly pay is $5100 after academy training (translating to $61,200 annually). Arizona’s Department of Juvenile Corrections lists the annual salary for Youth Corrections Officer I at a range of $35,974 to $41,847. The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch pays its Juvenile Detention Officers $36,106 per year to start, or $37,874 for those working the night shirt, plus benefits. 

Jobs for all correctional officers, including those working with the juvenile population, are expected to decrease by about seven percent between 2019 and 2029. This is due to many of the same factors discussed at the beginning of this article, including closures and repurposing of facilities, and reclassifications of crimes. 

Resources for Aspiring Juvenile Correctional Officers

If you would like to learn more about becoming a juvenile correctional officer, check out these resources: