A prison guard, also known as a correctional officer, supervises individuals who have been incarcerated in a penitentiary after being convicted of a crime.
Prison guards maintain order and safety within a prison’s walls, preventing disturbances, fights, and escapes. During the course of their duties, prison guards may also be called upon to search inmate’s cells and other areas for illegal items, fire hazards, and unclean conditions. They also make sure visitors and mail are free of contraband.
As prison guards must know both the rules and regulations of the penitentiary as well as overarching state and federal law regarding detainees, special training is required.
All employers of prison guards require a high school diploma or its equivalent; some state and local departments of corrections may require further education such as an associate degree. The Federal Bureau of Prisons also requires a bachelor’s degree, three years of full-time experience supervising, assisting, or counseling individuals; or some combination thereof.
Applicable associate and bachelor’s degrees for prison guards include those in criminal justice and law enforcement. All prison guards go through specialized training upon hiring.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that the median annual wages of correctional officers and jailers were $38,380 with the middle fifty percent earning between $29,660 and $51,000.*
Those who worked in the federal government earned the highest median annual wages at $50,830; state government employees made $38,850; and local government prison guards pulled in $37,510. Private facility guards earned the lowest on the scale with median annual wages of $28,790.
The U.S. Department of Labor expects that employment growth for correctional officers to be as “fast as the average for all occupations” because of population growth and the increase in the number of incarcerated individuals. Private prisons are likely to see the most growth because many states as well as the federal government are turning activities over to the private sector.
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics