How to Become a Correctional Officer in Tennessee

Since being one of the first correctional systems in the nation to get full accreditation in 1994, the Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has become recognized as a national model for its management strategies and cost-cutting techniques. Since then, the American Correctional Association has renewed each system component’s accreditation on a triennial basis.

With a total capacity of 21,000 inmates, the department manages and runs 10 adult prisons, contracts with a commercial prison management business to run one prison, and works with various counties to run three other prisons. Around 79,000 criminals on probation, parole, or community corrections are also under the TDOC’s supervision. 


By upholding its goal to run safe and secure prisons and offer efficient community supervision to increase public safety, the Department of Correction strives to become the best correctional agency in the country. The agency can advance its objectives of holding criminals accountable, enhancing offender outcomes, and decreasing recidivism through new programs. Typical duties for Correctional Officers include:

  • Keeping an eye on convicts’ actions in their living quarters, dining places, workspaces, and leisure areas while also tending to their medical, visitation, personal property, and recreational needs.
  • Searching and patrolling the property for illegal activity, unapproved persons, and other security threats.
  • Welcoming new inmates by allocating housing, looking for contraband, providing clothing, and stowing away personal items.
  • Evaluate inmates’ attitudes toward staff, other convicts, and personal hygiene. Sends this evaluation to the counseling department. Observes inmate behavior. Counsels inmates and families about difficulties.
  • Participating in various events, including staff gatherings, disciplinary hearings, and instruction in first aid, riot control, and escape prevention.
  • Creating a range of reports, including daily logs, disciplinary reports, lists of the jobs and wages of convicts, daily counts of inmates, and requests for office supplies.
  • Using various tools, such as two-way radios, weapons, mace, electronic gates, television cameras, and possibly motor vehicles.
  • Using reason or physical force to break up fights or other potentially dangerous situations.
  • Implementing current policies and procedures and explaining them to others.


Correctional Officers in this class may be assigned to work any shift while performing correctional duties at a state prison that involves the custody, transportation, and rehabilitation of offenders. As opposed to a Correctional Corporal, those assigned as Correctional Officer 1 serves as subordinate supervisor.

After completing a required one-year training period, a candidate nominated for this class will be promoted to Correctional Officer 2. Inadequate or subpar performance throughout the training time will result in automatic demotion or termination.

Candidates for this class should:

  • Be prepared to use, carry, and qualify with the assigned weapons.
  • On the date of application, you must be at least eighteen (18) years old.
  • Have American citizenship.
  • Possess a solid moral foundation, as shown by an investigation.
  • Complete a criminal history disclosure form in a way that the hiring authority has approved.
  • Agree to provide the hiring authorities with all records pertaining to their criminal past.
  • Provide a fingerprint sample in accordance with TBI guidelines so that a fingerprint-based criminal history records check can be performed.
  • Have never been discharged from any branch of the US military other than on an honorable basis or been convicted of a felony.
  • Pass a medical exam conducted in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and relevant to the essential responsibilities of the position, and that is performed by a licensed physician.
  • Pass a psychological test conducted per the Americans with Disabilities Act, relevant to the employee’s primary responsibilities, and administered by a qualified mental health professional.
  • Agree to take and pass a drug test as part of the hiring process.
  • For some occupations, have a current driver’s license at the time of appointment.
  • After being appointed, complete the Tennessee Correction Academy’s required course of study successfully.

Most correctional security staff members can anticipate a variety of post assignments and any one of three different work shifts throughout their tenure. Although the work preferences of the employee are taken into account, there is no assurance that they will continue to be allocated to a particular shift or post assignment.


The Tennessee Correction Academy is pleased to offer the staff of the Tennessee Department of Correction training opportunities. Our main goal is to deliver high-quality, regulated pre-service training programs and specialist courses emphasizing succession planning, staff development, and supervisory and management abilities.

Topics covered during the pre-service training include:

The Incident Command System

This lesson plan gives learners a foundational grasp of line-level response to emergencies in an institutional setting and introduces TINCOM, Tennessee Incident Command for Corrections.

CPR/First Aid

Every day there is a chance that a correctional employee will have to perform emergency first aid. This course’s goal is to arm them with the know-how and abilities needed to carry out these life-saving procedures.

Report Writing 

This lesson plan aims to introduce students to the elements of written reports and the value of clarity and concision. They will learn how to use written reports to properly discipline prisoners and present their cases in court. These ideas will be covered through lectures, group discussions, and practical exercises. A skills exam will be one of the two reports the student writes.

Counseling Techniques

Every day, members of staff who often engage with offenders have the chance to persuade them to alter their perspectives, which will then influence their behavior. One method that can be applied in the quest to rehabilitate prisoners is cognitive-behavioral therapy. Other staff members can assist in this endeavor if they are familiar with the method employed in many therapy programs. 

Security Threat Groups (STG)

The American Correctional Association concluded that street gangs would eventually evolve into prison gangs. Inmates who are younger, more violent, and recognized as members or affiliates of organized groups have significantly increased in number within our population during the previous ten years. For our institutions’ safety and security, this has given rise to alarm.

Each of you needs to be aware of the risks and issues particular to the administration and control of these prisoners. Recognizing and identifying the inmates who fit within these categories is a crucial first step in effective management. This course is intended to give you knowledge that will enable you to identify prisoners who might threaten institutional security and how TDOC addresses the issue.

Survival of Hostages

This training is intended to teach the cadet some of the procedures necessary to successfully resolve a hostage scenario and teach them how to increase their chances of survival in a hostage situation.

Disciplinary Procedures for Prisoners

TDOC employees are sworn to carry out their responsibilities faithfully and to refrain from mistreating or abusing the prisoners they are in charge of. Policy mandates that every TDOC employee who comes into contact with inmates must uphold inmate rules. Trainees will be able to fulfill these criteria successfully thanks to this training.

Policy and Procedure for Firearms

This course of instruction is intended to familiarize you with the policies and procedures about using lethal force, requirements for firearms qualification, and staff members who are permitted to carry firearms. Safety regulations for the correct handling of firearms and the inspection of ammunition will be covered to ensure a secure atmosphere throughout the weapon certification process.

Applying force Law, Policy, and the Continuum

This course teaches participants the limitations on the use of force under TDOC policy to assist in the decision-making process for figuring out when the use of force is authorized, when it can be put into action, what equipment is allowed to be used, and the factors to take into account when applying force, up to and including deadly force.

This course is intended to provide participants with an awareness of the standards for the amount of force appropriate in a particular circumstance, from the presence of officers to the use of deadly force.


Tennessee’s local law enforcement officers are certified by the Tennessee Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission (POST). The employing agency will ask the POST Commission for approval before allowing an out-of-state or previously certified officer to become licensed in Tennessee if all conditions are satisfied. If permitted, the officer would enroll in a three (3) week transition program at the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy (TLETA) or, in departments with their own academies, a POST-approved lateral program.


There are no college requirements for Correctional Officers in Tennessee. However, education and experience will be considered when applying.

Colleges in Tennessee that provide Criminology or Criminal Justice degrees include:

The University of Tennessee – Criminology and Criminal Justice

Tennessee Tech University – Criminology and Criminal Justice


The Bureau of Labor and Statistics lists the average salary for Correctional Officers in Tennessee as $39,920. 

More than 6,600 Tennesseans are employed by the Department of Correction in various parts of the state. The most prevalent roles are for correctional officers. Still, the department is always searching for excellent nurses, probation and parole officers, and administrators passionate about the justice system.

Benefits Include:

  • Annual Leave (One Day Per Month)
  • Sick Leave (One Day Per Month)
  • 401K or 457K Deferred Compensation Programs
  • Health Insurance (80% State Paid)
  • Approximately 11 Paid Holidays Per Year
  • Direct Deposit
  • Credit Union
  • Employee Assistance Program
  • Paid Overtime/Compensatory Time
  • Retirement Package with Insurance Options
  • Uniforms and Equipment Furnished for Correctional Officers
  • Additional Benefits are Available


The TDOC advertises for Correctional Officer positions almost continuously. All interested and qualified candidates should apply.


Tennessee Department of Corrections

Federal Bureau of Prisons