DECD: Occupation Profile: Correctional Officer

Occupation Profile: Correctional Officer - October 2001

By Brandon T. Hooker, Research Analyst, DOL

Introduction

Connecticut is actively planning to expand its current correctional system, and is increasing its efforts to recruit skilled personnel. This effort may present new employment opportunities to prospective correctional officers seeking employment. Statewide, there are 4,139 officers currently employed by the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC).

What Do They Do?

A correctional officer’s primary responsibilities can vary on a daily basis, but are typically concentrated in one or more of the following areas: supervising inmates within a correctional facility, or while transporting them, conducting security inspections and investigations, logging/tracking inmate conduct, behavior and movement, and supervising offenders in the community near completion of their sentences. Officers are called upon to apply and adhere to the regulations and institutional policies set forth by the DOC. Due to the occupation’s potentially volatile working conditions, officers must make best use of their interpersonal and oral/written communication skills in order to protect the public, fellow staff and the general inmate population.

Education and Training

The DOC will only appoint applicants to their Cheshire training academy who meet its specialized qualifications for employment. All candidates must be at least 21 years of age and have attained their high school diploma or passed the General Educational Development (GED) exam. An individual is required to pass a variety of strength/endurance and character examinations, which properly assess his or her ability to handle violent altercations and the mental stress associated with this position. The DOC also tests levels of cognitive ability, since this occupation relies primarily upon how effectively an officer analyzes and resolves conflicts within the detention center.

An appointee to the training academy will learn to apply proper security and custody procedures, institutional policy/regulations, and facility management. Over time, qualified officers are often promoted and offered various supervisory or administrative positions including: correctional lieutenant, counselor supervisor or warden.

Where Do They Work?

The Connecticut Department of Correction is the sole employer of correctional officers within the State. Correctional officers will perform the majority of their job duties within the confined quarters of a correctional facility. These facilities are located across the State in various urban and rural communities such as Bridgeport, Brooklyn, Hartford, and Suffield. Both Cheshire and Enfield house three facilities which provide services for over 2,500 inmates on an annual basis.

Earnings

Correctional officers’ wages tend to vary on a state by state basis. For example, state and local governments offer annual starting salaries of $14,600 in California and $34,100 in New Jersey. As of 1999, the average annual earning of U.S. correctional officers was $31,070. Connecticut’s academy cadets can expect to earn the equivalent of $28,355 per year during their initial ten-week probationary period. After successful completion of the training program, a cadet is promoted to the class of correctional officer and typically earns $31,505 or more annually.

Average annual Wage for Correctional Officers By Selected States, 1999

{Average annual Wage for Correctional Officers By Selected States, 1999}

Employment Outlook

In the United States, federal, state, and local governments employed approximately 381,250 correctional officers in 1999. The natural attrition of personnel, job transfers, and an increasing demand for trained officers should fuel the generation of openings throughout the country. However, budgetary constraints, an inability to attract qualified applicants, and relatively low salary structures continue to negatively affect the expansion of states’ correctional agencies. Yet, the employment forecast for this occupation in Connecticut looks promising, as the Connecticut Department of Labor projects 194 annual job placements over the next ten years. Today, the DOC is in the process of expanding the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Facility in Suffield in an effort to cope with Connecticut’s rising offender population.

Human resource information regarding correctional officers in Connecticut is available by contacting the Department of Correction at (860) 692-7600. To explore various employment opportunities currently available to you, visit the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Web site at http://www.ctdol.state.ct.us or call (860)-263-6275 for the most up-to-date labor market information.