Correctional service officers (NOC 4422)

About this job

Correctional service officersprisonersguard offenders and detainees and maintain order in correctional facilities and other places of detention.

People in this occupation:

  • work for federal, provincial and municipal governments
  • must be able to work as part of a team and operate computer systems
  • need to make quick decisions and manage stress
  • must communicate clearly and exercise good judgment
  • must follow procedures and maintain self control

Correctional service officers who are supervisors are included in this unit group.

Common job titles
  • detention attendant / guard
  • escort - correctional services
  • guard, convict / correctional facility
  • jail guard / jailer
  • matron, head - prison / penitentiary
  • officer, correctional
  • detention attendant / guard
  • escort - correctional services
  • guard, convict / correctional facility
  • jail guard / jailer
  • matron, head - prison / penitentiary
  • officer, correctional

Duties

Correctional officers may perform some or all of the following duties:

  • observe conduct and behaviour of prisoners in order to prevent disturbances and escapes
  • supervise prisoners during work assignments, meals and recreation periods
  • do physical security checks
  • provide inmate counselling
  • develop and direct program activities
  • patrol assigned area and report any problems to supervisor
  • observe behaviour of prisoners and prepare reports
  • escort prisoners in transit and during temporary leaves
  • prepare admission, program, release, transfer and other reports
  • may supervise and coordinate work of other correctional officers
  • explain policies and provide information to inmates

Work environment

Correctional officers typically work 35–40 hours per week. Correctional facilities operate 24 hours a day throughout the year, so correctional officers have to work nights, early mornings, weekends and holidays. Overtime is quite common for correctional officers.

Correctional officers may work outdoors when stationed in watch towers, patrolling the prison grounds (federal corrections only) or when supervising work crews. As a result, workers are sometimes exposed to unpleasant weather conditions. In provincial corrections facilities, correctional officers spend most of their work day indoors; however, they also supervise outdoor work crews. Workers may also have to travel while escorting inmates on temporary leaves.

Correctional officers use surveillance equipment to monitor correctional facility activities and use computers to write and file reports, update records and communicate with other staff. Therefore, some workers may spend a large portion of the work day viewing video monitors, which can cause eye strain and fatigue.

According to industry sources, the inmate-to-staff ratio has increased over the past few years, so there are more inmates per correctional officer.

Correctional officers are sometimes faced with tense interpersonal situations while supervising inmates. These workers use their highly developed communication skills in order to handle such situations. In the rare event that problems cannot be solved through talking, these workers may have to use physical force to maintain inmate order. The workplace can be stressful, but teamwork, peer support and stress management training help to keep stress levels down.

Insights from industry

The majority of job opportunities in the coming years will result from new job creation. In the long term, new facilities are expected to be built, which will increase the number of jobs in this occupation.

Industry sources report correctional facilities in B.C., particularly in the north, are having difficulty attracting a sufficient number of recruits, which is leading to shortages of correctional officers.

The demand will be highest for those who have completed preparatory courses and who may have previous experience working as correctional officers in social services, at youth correctional facilities, as security officers or in law enforcement.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Experienced correctional officers may be promoted to correctional supervisor and management positions. A minimum of seven years experience is typically required before becoming a correctional supervisor.

With additional education, correctional officers in the provincial and federal systems may become probation or parole officers or correctional treatment specialists.

With additional training and education, these workers may also move into law enforcement occupations, such as police officer.

Additional resources