Amongst the biggest challenges felons face when released from prison is finding a job. While low paying and physically demanding work are plentiful, most adults hope for better. They seek work that comes with good pay, benefits, and opportunity for growth.
A job is meant to do more than just meet regular bills. It should also provide a means by which to build a solid future. This kind of gainful employment is however competitive.
One sector that felons may overlook is within the prison system itself. This brings us to the question: Can a felon become a correctional officer?
This might seem an odd query but there is good reason to consider it. State and federal jobs can often provide good job security and generous benefits.
It may even be worth considering if a felon can become a police officer. Despite the negative outcome, this interaction may have previously brought.
For many felons, these ideas can seem abhorrent. After all, few would want to return to a place they considered a punishment. However, having been on the inside, it can be a good chance to make a difference.
Another upside might be in being able to return in a position of authority. This can make it easier to set a good example and help influence positive change.
Before we however get deeper into the benefits of such a job, let us first consider the duties.
What Does a Correctional Officer Do?
Correctional officers are an integral part of the justice system. They are present from the point of arrest, all the way to release from prison. They play many roles in ensuring there is order amongst those detained in jail or prison.
This means you can find them working in jails, courts, state, and federal prisons. They see to the welfare and safety of those detained. Amongst their key roles is:
- Enforce applicable rules and regulations and keep order
- Monitor and report violations in inmate conduct
- Supervise inmate activity in jail, prison, courthouses, medical facilities, and other destinations
- Screening and searching for contraband in possession of inmates or their visitors
- Regularly inspect facilities to ensure they are suitable for inmate occupation and use
- Maintain security of prison facilities
- Oversee transport of those awaiting trial to and from the courthouse and jail
- Aid in the rehabilitation of offenders
Many of the state and federal prisons are overpopulated. The facilities are also often not up to high standards. This means the environment can easily get hot and noisy.
Maintaining order can be a problem. Hence the demand for those that can help keep control. More so in higher-level security complexes.
Maximum and medium-security institutions tend to have the most felons. These are criminals convicted of more serious crimes. Their convictions typically result in a sentence of over a year.
Lesser offenses, like misdemeanors, often result in serving time in jail or minimum security prisons. Offenders may also end up in halfway houses.
The latter institutions are less stressful to work in for correctional officers. There is less violence and more cooperative inmates to deal with.
As the duties listed suggest, this can be a tough job with a huge responsibility. Let’s now look at what is required to join these ranks.
Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer
The requirements can often differ when comparing state and federal positions. Federal hiring standards tend to be more selective. However, some states have also beefed up their hiring criteria.
Some of the most common requirements include:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Be at least 18 years of age. Some states require 21 years. The federal system stipulates an age range of 20-37 years.
- Have earned a high school diploma or GED
- Have a clean criminal record
- Be physically able to perform the duties of a correctional officer
- Have a valid driver’s license. Most states require this but it does not have to be clean. The majority accept no more than 2 DUIs.
- Be eligible to carry a concealed weapon
When it comes to verifying physical ability, applicants are typically taken through a fitness test. Some states will also undertake pre-application screening. This can involve simulations to see how candidates manage situations.
A background check is mandatory with any state or federal job. This includes fingerprinting to ensure you are the person you claim to be. And a drug test.
Any referees and work history on your resume will also be verified. Your credit report will also likely be pulled.
And finally, a criminal background check will be done. This is certainly the most important issue for felons considering working as correctional officers.
So let’s consider how this affects your chances of securing the job.
Can A Felon Be Hired As A Correctional Officer?
As a general rule of thumb, a felony conviction should disqualify you from such a job. This is most conclusive when it comes to federal correctional facility jobs.
However, at the state level, the rules are not as stringent. If you qualify and are granted a pardon or expungement, you may stand a chance. This is typically only possible with non-violent offenses.
It also matters if you were convicted as a juvenile or adult. For instance, in California, juvenile convictions are not considered. But adult convictions, even expunged, are.
For those with misdemeanors, some offenses are considered minor enough to ignore. This again will however depend on the particular state.
Crimes that however involve drug or domestic violence convictions can permanently exclude you. This is whether they are felony or misdemeanor offenses.
Here we have mostly focused on state and federal institutions. It is however worth noting that there are also private prisons and programs.
While a government-run facility may disqualify you based on criminal past, the case may differ with private institutions. It may be advisable to consider this alternative and try to check if you meet their requirements.
Though they may be more relaxed about felonies, also consider what kind of salary and benefits to expect. Let’s now look at the typical return you can expect as a corrections officer.
Benefits of Becoming a Correctional Officer
As mentioned, working as a correctional officer does come with some good benefits. For those in federal positions, the salary and benefits package is very attractive.
Salary increases over time are standard. This means the longer you work there, the more money that will be coming in.
Many states offer merit salary adjustments that see annual increases of as much as 5%. This is up to the maximum of your job grade.
The job security of federal and state jobs is also great. This is especially helpful in what can sometimes be a volatile job market. Government hires are less likely to have their positions terminated.
State and federal jobs also come with longer and paid vacation time than those in the private sector. This can be a big help when you need some time to de-stress and spend time with family.
Depending on the state, employees may also enjoy more flexible work schedules. Those that
The health and retirement benefits schemes are also often generous and secure. Many states continue to offer health insurance to their retired employees. Employee Assistance Programs (EPA) are also often included to help during times of hardship.
Some benefits may also be free or have reduced federal and state taxes applied.
With time and training, you may eventually qualify for promotions or transfer to more rewarding positions. If you pursue some higher education you may even be entitled to some additional financial aid.
If you are still willing to play the odds, you should work to project the right image. Employers are typically impressed by those with a solid work history.
Long stints of employment indicate a dedication to the job. For the prison system, it also means you are likely to serve for a long time. They do not have to worry about your leaving soon after they have invested heavily in your training.
Achieving some level of higher education beyond a high school diploma or GED is also helpful. Those that have earned degrees stand a better chance. For federal prison positions, a bachelor’s degree is required.
While the odds may not be in your favor as a felon, you can still try. More so if state positions offer some leeway such as pardons or expungement. In some states, this can help clear your record and make you eligible for correctional officer jobs.
Take time to find out more about state regulations governing these positions. Some jurisdictions are more flexible.
Do not be discouraged. Consider and apply for other types of jobs that can be just as lucrative. Be reasonable in your expectations and ready to pursue another course if this fails.