Government Job Profile: Juvenile Correctional Officer

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The job of a juvenile correctional officer is very similar to that of a correctional officer in adult facilities. The work environment and pay are almost identical. The biggest difference is that youth lockups focus on rehabilitation more than adult prisons do. That means that juvenile corrections officers have a mentoring component to their jobs that other corrections officers do not.

The job is dangerous, so juvenile corrections officers cannot get too friendly with the incarcerated youth.

Officers must remain alert at all times. There must be a clear delineation of who has authority and who does not. Without this common understanding, the inmates try to take advantage of the relationship. It has to stay professional.

Because juvenile corrections officers get to participate in rehabilitating troubled youth, this work can be very rewarding. The best thing for a juvenile corrections officer is often never seeing an inmate again.

The Selection Process

Juvenile corrections officers must be 21 years old. In addition to putting applicants through the normal government hiring process, organizations that employ juvenile corrections officers put finalists through background checks, criminal history checks, personality tests, medical exams, drug tests, and physical strength and skills tests. Once officers are hired and have gone through training, they must pass additional physical strength and skills tests to maintain employment.

The Education You'll Need

Some organizations require only a high school degree to become a juvenile corrections officer. Some require an associate’s degree in criminal justice. Even if it isn’t required, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in criminal justice is a good choice for both getting hired and preparing a graduate for work.

Criminal justice majors are ahead of the game once on-the-job training starts.

Employers provide extensive training to new hires, and they also provide a good amount of ongoing training. Juvenile corrections officers are armed with the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to do the job well before they actually have to put them into practice.

The Experience You Need

Experience is not required to be a juvenile corrections officer in most organizations though it is helpful for applicants to separate themselves from the rest of the applicant pool. Military service and private security work look good on a job application.

What You'll Do

Juvenile corrections officers maintain a safe environment for incarcerated youth and fellow officers. This includes closely watching inmates; frequently counting them; breaking up physical altercations; and conducting searches for contraband concealed in inmates’ clothing, bodies and cells.

Officers serve as role models for incarcerated youth. While they maintain appropriate professional boundaries, officers actively participate in inmates’ rehabilitation. If these youth can put their lives on a different course, they can become productive members of society.

Otherwise, they are usually back in prison mere months after completing their sentence.

Officers document inmates’ behaviors to help medical professionals and counselors perform their job duties. Inmates often have psychological issues that they need to overcome, so knowing how inmates behave throughout the day allows medical and counseling staff better create and execute treatment plans. Institutional staff work in concert to steer inmates away from the behaviors that landed them in prison.

Inmates never go anywhere alone. Officers escort inmates everywhere they go as inmates cannot eat a meal or take a shower without supervision.

Correctional facilities have high turnover rates because the dangerous work environment and relatively low pay quickly lead to burnout for many new juvenile corrections officers.

What You'll Earn

Juvenile corrections officers make about the same salary as other correctional officers. According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for correctional officers in 2015 was $40,530 per year. Many organizations have career ladders that provide juvenile corrections officers regular raises as they gain more tenure; officers can also earn extra money by working night and weekend shifts.