Some felons want to be correctional officers. Having been inside prison, they are familiar with this job. Whatever their drive, the query remains, can a felon become a correctional officer?
Felony offenses are those that attract a penalty of over a year in prison. The offenders face more problems in trying to set up a career. Specially after their release. Their criminal past becomes an obstacle. Many employers are averse to hiring anyone with a record.
Here we seek to clarify a felon’s chances of securing work as an officer. Let’s begin by first defining what a correctional officer is and what he does.
Duties of A Correctional Officer
Officers work in jails and prisons catering to the welfare of inmates. They are found at both state and federal institutions. With over 1.6 million imprisoned adults in the U.S., there is high demand for such people.
Here are some of the key duties of officers.
1 Maintaining Order
Correctional officers ensure prisoners abide by rules and regulations. Besides, they settle disputes and work to prevent assaults and other conflicts. This can call for dialogue or enforcing whatever prescribed penalties.
2 Inmate Supervision
Officers oversee inmate activity through the day to ensure rules are followed. This is done within the prison and when there is movement outside. Such as when going to court or visiting medical facilities.
It also covers occasions when outsiders come to visit. If wondering can a felon visit someone in prison, yes they can. With certain conditions.
3 Reporting on Inmate Behavior
Daily reports on inmate activity during their shift is a must. For inmates that break rules, officers are expected to report on them.
4 Inspection of Facilities
Besides monitoring inmates, officers must also keep inspecting facilities. They need to ensure conditions are sanitary. In addition, that there is no physical or structural damage. If there is any damage that indicates an escape attempt, it must be noted.
5 Offender Rehabilitation
Depending on the prison, there may be rehab programs for inmates. Often, this can take the form of counseling, job training, or educational programs.
Given all the work involved, what does it take to become an officer?
Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer
As indicated, there are federal and state positions for this kind of work. Each system and state will have its own set of requirements. Here we will look at the most basic criteria you will find in most states.
1 U.S. Citizenship
One must be a citizen or else be eligible to work in the US. Some states do require that a person already be a resident to secure a job.
2 Minimum Age
The minimum age can be 18 or 21 years, depending on the state. Federal institutions require applicants to be between the ages of 20 to 37 years. This is typically at the time or recruitment.
Most states require a minimum of a high school diploma or GED. Also, applicants that have some post-high school training or military experience have an added advantage.
4 Driver’s License
A valid driver’s license is a common requisite in many states. However, few need applicants to have a clean driving record. But, they may limit a person to no more than two DUIs.
5 Physical Condition
A medical and physical fitness test is typically part of the hiring process. The test is used to ascertain that one is physically fit for the job. It also helps to identify any preexisting conditions.
Besides a good educational background, a solid work history can also help. This proves a candidate is worth investing time and money in training up for the job. Also, it suggests that they will take the job seriously and stick with it.
Federal regulations also tend to favor veterans. However, if dishonorably discharged, their chances may not be so good.
Note that when working in this sector, there are some factors to consider. These include:
- Private or public – There are government-owned and private prisons. Private prisons tend to work with lower budgets and have less stringent regulations.
- Age of the prison – Older prisons have poorer facilities that make life harder for prisoners and officers. Conversely, the comforts and new technology of newer prisons make work and life easier.
- Differing security levels – Different institutions cater to varied levels of criminals. This includes minimum, medium, and maximum level security. Higher levels of security also come with more risks of violence.
Once one qualifies for the job, what kind of pay can they look forward to?
How Much Does a Correctional Officer Make?
While these are not the highest-paying jobs for felons, officers still do well. Federal jobs will pay more than most state positions.
The average salary for federal officers stands at about $53,440 per year. Additionally, some states like California and Rhode Island do pay a higher average salary. This is over $70,000 per year as at a 2019 survey.
Also, they are entitled to multiple benefits. This includes medical cover and pension plans.
Furthermore, this high income is buoyed by the positive job growth outlook. Even with the prison population expected to decrease, there is still much overcrowding. As a result, more prisons are being built.
Steady work in this field is expected to continue unabated. States with the highest demand for officers includes California, Texas, and New York.
Most states and federal authorities will conduct a background check on applicants.
This check will cover:
- Fingerprint checking
- Confirmation of references
- Verification of educational background
- Verification of work history
- Drug testing
- Credit report
- DMV records
- Criminal background check
This aspect of the hiring process is where felons tend to be most worried. They become concerned about what shows up on a background check and how it will affect their chances. Let’s consider the possible outcomes.
Can A Felon Become a Correctional Officer?
It is very hard for a felon to become a correctional officer. Federal authorities will not consider a candidate that lacks good moral character. The same goes for most state prison departments.
Having a criminal record will often automatically disqualify a felon from joining. However, some states do have pro-convict legislation which may help. It may allow those with low-level offenses to be considered.
Note that those convicted of juvenile offenses will likely have their records sealed. Thus, this criminal past may not be counted when making a hiring decision.
Misdemeanors are not as seriously considered in many states. But this will depend on the kind of offense. Charges involving drugs and domestic violence may be a disqualifier.
Seeking an expungement of your records could help. However, expungement can take a while. Typically, there is a waiting period of some years before one can apply for this relief.
Moreover, it is also not often granted for more serious offenses. If there has been repeated offending, you may also not qualify. Not surprisingly, your best bet lies in consulting an attorney. They can review your case so as to confirm if you fit the criteria.
Even with an expungement, some state prison departments may still discover your past. But this depends on what kind of employer it is. Private prisons are more flexible and may be willing to accept those granted relief.
Do consider the severity of your offense. If it puts you in conflict with this work, consider another line of work.
If not, then work on improving other aspects of your resume. Also, you need to prove you are a changed person. An excellent work history, volunteerism, and solid educational background may help.