A correctional officer is employed by a prison to provide security for and more importantly, from, the inmates held in that prison. The correctional officer is fully responsible for the observance of security regulations – as such, he/she must escort inmates when they’re moving around the prison (for example, during their lunch hours). Also, the correctional officer must be especially observant for suspicious behavior in violent prisoners, and may be required to conduct searches on their bodies or cells.
Getting a job as a correctional officer can vary in difficulty depending on the security level of the prison. Low-level state prisons normally have lower requirements, and accept younger candidates aged over 18 (or 21 in some jurisdictions), provided they complete a set of examinations. High-security prisons will usually only hire experienced correctional officers who’ve already worked at another institution, and in the case of a “supermax” prison, the requirements may be even stricter, demanding knowledge of martial arts and a good physical build from their candidates.
Correctional officers are paid somewhat lower than most other prison employees (and judicial system ones in general). The median salary for 2009 was just $31,000, and even the higher-paying prisons usually compensate their officers with no more than $40,000 – $45,000 a year. This, combined with the generally high risk when performing the job, has been the cause for a great decline in its popularity on the job market in recent years – even supermax facilities have been finding it difficult to find reliable employees in recent years.