A corrections officer, correctional officer, detention officer, jail guard, prison guard, prison warder, or prison officer, is a person charged with the responsibility of the supervision, safety and security of prisoners in a prison, jail, or similar form of secure custody. In informal language, term jailer is also used.
These officers are responsible for the care, custody, and control of individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial while on remand, or who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a prison or jail. They are also responsible for the safety and security of a correctional facility. Most prison officers are employed by the Government of the country in which they operate though some are employed by private companies.
Because a correctional institution is a controlled environment inmates will often attempt to disrupt that environment. Various remedies for such disruptions, including physical and less than lethal force, isolation and less lethal weaponry are often adopted depending on the type of correctional facility and its jurisdiction. Due to multiple disruptions and challenging work environments correctional officers often face high levels of stress, burnout, health problems, high turnover rates, low life expectancy and decreased quality of life. In fact, the National Institute of Corrections reports that after 20 years of service the life expectancy of a correctional officer is 58 (National Institute of Corrections, 2008).
The duties a correctional officer carries out will often depend on the type of institution in which they work. For instance, a correctional officer at a minimum security institution may be responsible for casually supervising inmates as they work or participate in treatment programs while at a maximum security institution a correctional officer would have duties involving the regular use of restraints, weapon searches, and tactical response.
Correctional officers are also expected to control their emotions, remain impersonal and engage in activities that are often conflicting. For example, they are expected to respect and nurture, yet suspect and discipline inmates and have an us-them mentality (Tracy, 2005; Tracy, 2004). Despite the many trials and tough work environments corrections officers encounter, they serve and protect the public by monitoring a population that the rest of society has cast out and does not want to deal with.
In North America, standard training usually includes
Many jurisdictions have also, in recent years, expanded basic training to include
Davenport, D. K. (2001). State of Arizona Office of the Auditor General Performance Audit: Arizona Department of Corrections. Sunset Factors Retrieved March 8, 2008 from http://www.auditorgen.state.az.us/Reports/State_Agencies/Agencies/Corrections
National Institute of Corrections (2008). Retrieved March 12, 2008 from http://www.nicic.org
Tracy, S. J. (2005). Locking up emotion: Moving beyond dissonance for understanding emotion labor discomfort. Communication Monographs, 72, 261-283.
Tracy, S. J. (2004). The construction of correctional officers: Layers of emotionality behind bars. Qualitative Inquiry, 10, 509-533.
Tracy, S. J., Meyers, K., & Scott, C. (2007). Cracking jokes and crafting selves: Sensemaking and identity management among human service workers. Communication Monographs, 73, 283-308.