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Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

Within the state of Arkansas, supervision of incarcerated offenders is a responsibility shared between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Arkansas Department of Corrections:

  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons operates a major Federal Correctional Complex at Forrest City which houses more than 3,900 in low, minimum and medium facilities.
  • The Arkansas Department of Corrections oversaw a year-end statewide population of 14,805 inmates with a 4,161 correctional officers and staff.  The Arkansas Department of Corrections currently operates eight correctional facilities throughout the state.

Educational and Professional Experience Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in Arkansas

Federal

New federal correctional officers may join the Bureau of Prisons at the GS-5 or GS-6 pay grades.  GS-5 employees are required to have a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of experience in one of these fields:

  • Teaching
  • Counseling
  • Child care
  • Management
  • Sales

GS-6 employees possess at least 14 quarter hours or nine semester hours of graduate study in criminal justice, social science or criminology, or a year of specialized professional experience in

  • Corrections
  • Law enforcement
  • Mental health treatment

State

Correctional officers who serve in the Arkansas Department of Corrections must possess a high school diploma or equivalency.

Physical Fitness Requirements

The Federal Bureau of Prisons conducts physical fitness tests to determine if candidates are capable of handling the duties and stresses related to correctional officer jobs.  This physical abilities test includes:

  • Climb and grasp—must be completed within seven seconds
  • Dummy drag—a 75 pound dummy must be dragged for three minutes across at least 694 feet
  • Run and cuff—a quarter mile run is followed by handcuffing a target; must be completed within 2 minutes and 35 seconds
  • Obstacle course—this should be completed within 58 seconds
  • Stair climb—108 steps must be climbed while carrying a 20 pound weight within 45 seconds

Applying to Become a Correctional Officer in Arkansas

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Federal jobs must be obtained through the www.USAJobs.gov website.  Once a correctional officer posting is found, the applicant must follow the link to the Office of Personnel Management where a pre-employment questionnaire must be completed.  This form ensures that applicants possess the following minimum qualifications:

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Between 20 and 37 years of age
  • No serious criminal convictions
  • No major financial improprieties

An application along with the following documents should be submitted to the Bureau of Prisons.

  • Transcripts/copies of diplomas
  • Resumes
  • Military service records and documents
  • Law enforcement service records
  • Employer endorsements

Following acceptance of application, the Bureau of Prisons will contact the applicant to schedule a series of interviews and background checks.  If approved, the applicant must then pass a thorough medical examination and drug test. Entering correctional officers may earn salaries between $31,315 and $40,706 for GS-5 and from $34,907 to $45,376 for GS-6 levels.

Arkansas Department of Corrections

Correctional officer jobs with the Arkansas Department of Corrections may be found at the Arkansas State Jobs website.  Applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Possess a valid Arkansas driver’s license

Applicants must complete a basic skills test and submit to a criminal history check. The starting salary for state correctional officers is between $25,268 and $42,918.

Training for Correctional Officers in Arkansas

Federal Training

New federal correctional officers initially begin their training at the facility they are assigned to.  This 80-hour orientation period introduces the new officer to the facility, its policies and procedures and effectively trains them in how to become a correctional officer in Arkansas’ federal penitentiaries.  Recruits are also allowed to familiarize themselves with the prison population.  The rest of training occurs at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in Glynco, GA.  This 120 hour training program includes instruction in these areas:

  • Physical abilities
  • Firearms training
  • Self-defense
  • Policies and procedures

A comprehensive written exam must be passed to graduate.  Proficiency with a firearm must also be demonstrated.  On-the-job training under the close supervision of a senior correctional officer is customary during the first year of duty.  Annual training to maintain skills and acquire additional competencies is required.

State Training

The 280-hour training program for Arkansas DOC correctional officers is conducted at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy.  In addition to a rigorous physical training program, new recruits will obtain instruction in the following topics:

  • Defensive tactics
  • Stress management
  • Taser training
  • Transportation officer training
  • Firearms
  • Vehicle searches and checkpoint procedures
  • Jail standards
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Inmate grievances

Upon assignment to a correctional facility, new officers will receive on-the-job training throughout the first year.  Following the first year, correctional officers must complete 40 hours of additional training each year.

Corrections Officer Salary in Arkansas

Here is the complete salary schedule of Arkansas correctional officers serving in various ranks. This data, furnished by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, features expected pay at different points throughout the career of a correctional officer in Arkansas:

ADC/DCC Correctional Officer I:

  • Entry: $25,268
  • Base: $26,824
  • Midpoint: $34,871
  • Maximum: $42,918
  • Career: $46,351

ADC/DCC Correctional Corporal:

  • Entry: $26,531
  • Base: $28,165
  • Midpoint: $36,614
  • Maximum: $45,064
  • Career: $48,669

ADC/DCC Correctional Sergeant:

  • Entry: $29,251
  • Base: $31,052
  • Midpoint: $40,367
  • Maximum: $49,683
  • Career: $53,657

ADC/DCC Correctional Warden:

  • Entry: $52,530
  • Base: $55,764
  • Midpoint: $68,032
  • Maximum: $80,301
  • Career: $86,725

It was found by the U.S. Department of Labor that the median correctional officer salary in Arkansas was $30,680 during 2012.

The Bureau also provided the following corrections officer salaries by city throughout Arkansas:

Area name
Employment
Annual mean wage
Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers AR-MO
260
30870
Fort Smith AR-OK
130
28700
Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway AR
680
29910
Pine Bluff AR
1660
33610
Texarkana-Texarkana TX-AR
880
32880
Central Arkansas nonmetropolitan area
120
24950
East Arkansas nonmetropolitan area
1360
34660
South Arkansas nonmetropolitan area
660
27940
West Arkansas nonmetropolitan area
130
22020

Fayetteville, Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

According to data provided by the Arkansas Department of Labor, jobs for correctional officers statewide are expected to increase by 9.5 percent from 2010 through 2020. As Arkansas currently has 19 state prison facilities, 83 jail facilities and over 20,000 prison inmates, it is likely that some of these will appeal to Fayetteville residents who may wish to become a correctional officer at the federal, state or local level. Fayetteville is the third-largest city in Arkansas and located in Washington County.

Degree and Education Requirements for Correctional Officers in Fayetteville

Federal

  • Bachelor’s degree in any field is required for an entry-grade federal correctional officer job in Fayetteville
  • Graduate coursework is necessary for a higher grade federal correctional officer job in Fayetteville
  • Three years of general work experience may be substituted to fulfill the education requirement for an entry-grade federal correctional job in Fayetteville
  • One year of specialized work experience may be substituted to fulfill the education requirement for a higher grade federal correctional job in Fayetteville

State

  • A high school diploma or GED is required for a job as a correctional officer in Fayetteville under the Arkansas Department of Corrections

County

  • A high school diploma/GED and two or more years of college coursework is necessary for a job as a detention officer in Washington County (Fayetteville)
  • Two years of equivalent experience may be substituted in place of the college coursework requirement for a Washington County detention officer job in Fayetteville

Other General Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in Fayetteville

Federal

  • Only those under 37 years of age may apply
  • No felony convictions are permitted

State

  • Only those 18 years old or older may apply
  • A valid driver’s license is required
  • Must have no felony convictions

County

  • Must have no felony convictions
  • Must be at least 18 years old

Correctional Officer Training in Fayetteville

Federal

  • Three weeks of training divided between the federal correctional institution to which a new hire is assigned and the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Glynco, Georgia:
  • Continuing education of 40 hours annually is required after the first year on the job

State

  • Fayetteville correctional officers working under the Arkansas Department of Correction must complete 280 hours of training at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy in Tucker Firearms
  • Continuing education of 40 hours annually is required after the first year on the job

County

  • All new hires must complete a jail standards certification course provided by Washington County
  • All new detention officers in Fayetteville must complete a first aid/CPR certification course

Fayetteville’s Prisons and Correctional Institutions

Federal

  • Forest City Federal Correctional Complex – 203 miles from Fayetteville, the closest federal penitentiary to Fayetteville

State

  • North Central Unit, Calico Rock – 113 miles from Fayetteville
  • Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center, Springdale –  9 miles from Fayetteville

County

  • Washington County Detention Center, Fayetteville

Forest City, Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

Both the federal government and the Arkansas state government run prisons out of Forrest City, a community conveniently located about 85 miles from Little Rock and 45 miles from Memphis, Tennessee.

Two prisons comprise the Federal Correctional Complex, Forrest City. The medium-security federal prison houses around 1,700 male inmates, while the minimum-security facility and adjacent camp houses approximately 2,150 men.

About 17 miles southeast of Forrest City, the Arkansas Department of Correction operates the East Arkansas Regional Unit. This state prison houses approximately 1,430 men.

Federal and state corrections officers monitor the inside and outside of the complex to which they are assigned. Duties may include screening visitors, sorting mail, counseling inmates, supervising work crews, and escorting prisoners to court and other appointments.

College education or applicable work experience are required for those seeking a job as an Arkansas federal or state corrections officer.

Education and Experience Requirements for Correctional Officer Jobs in Forrest City

Federal Correctional Complex, Forrest City Requirements

All applicants must be U.S. citizens who can pass a drug test, physical fitness testing, and psychological testing.

Any felony convictions disqualify an applicant from further consideration. Depending on the date and nature of the offense, an applicant with a misdemeanor conviction may still be eligible for job openings.

A federal corrections officer will be hired at either the GL-05 or GL-06 level. Applicants older than 36 years of age cannot be considered for a job with the federal penal system unless they have significant experience in law enforcement or the military.

Requirements for GL-05 AR Correctional Officer Jobs:

  • Three years full-time, paid or unpaid, work experience or a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university.
  • Work experience must somehow relate to the corrections field. Whether the job is classroom teaching or law enforcement, it must have helped the applicant develop a positive attitude toward diverse populations and an ability to remain clearheaded in any situation.

Requirements for GL-06 AR Correctional Officer Jobs:

  • Meet one or both requirements for GL-05 classification.
  • Possess at least a year of experience in a field related to law enforcement or mental health.
  • Alternatively, nine semester hours or 14 hours of graduate classes in a field related to criminology or social work can be substituted for advanced work experience.

Arkansas Department of Correction Requirements

All applicants must be able to pass a drug test, criminal background check, basic skills test, and medical exam.

Other requirements include:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • A valid Arkansas driver’s license

Training Requirements for State and Federal Correctional Officers in Forrest City

Federal Correctional Complex, Forrest City Requirements

CO jobs in Forrest City, Arkansas require successful completion of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy. The 200-hour program includes firearms and self-defense training, physical fitness conditioning, and a thorough orientation and review of federal corrections policies and procedures.

Every year federal corrections officers must undergo anywhere from 16 to 40 hours of supplemental training.

Arkansas Department of Correction Requirements

New correctional officers must complete a 280-hour state training program. The academy covers physical fitness conditioning, self-defense skills, taser training, firearms training, how to handle inmate conflicts and grievances, and extensive review of the state prison’s policies and procedures.

Every year correctional officers with the Arkansas Department of Correction officers participate in an additional 40 hours of training.

Fort Smith, Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

Fort Smith, Arkansas was home to one of the first federal jails in the United States. Founded in 1872, the jail was described as a “veritable hell upon earth” by Anna Dawes. One of the reasons for the deplorable conditions was that the Fort Smith jail was the holding site for all prisoners in Arkansas’ Western District, including what is now Oklahoma. This included Indian tribes who had been removed from their native lands, and contributed to the overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions found in the jail. Other problems included a lack of separate space for female prisoners, discipline problems, boredom, and lack of adequate staff. Only the construction of a second jail in the late 1890s would help to alleviate the problems found at the Fort Smith Jail.

Today’s correctional officers in Fort Smith have much better working conditions and job sites from which to choose. A federal correctional facility exists just 130 miles to the southwest. State-run facilities operated by the Arkansas Department of Correction are located a short distance from Fort Smith. The town is also home to the Sebastian County Detention Centers for adults and juveniles.

Education and Other Requirements for Correctional Officers in Fort Smith

Federal

  • GS5 Federal Correctional Officer – bachelor’s degree (any discipline)
  • GS6 Federal Correctional Officer – nine hours of graduate education
  • Must be less than 37 years old at the time of application

State

  • High school diploma/ GED
  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must have, and maintain during employment, a valid driver’s license

Training for Correctional Officers in Fort Smith

Federal – Federal correctional officers in Fort Smith are expected to complete three weeks of initial training. This will be held at their assigned federal correctional facility as well as at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Glynco, Georgia. Courses include:

  • Firearms
  • Self-defense
  • Physical training and conditioning
  • Policies and procedures

Continuing education of 40 hours per year is required after the first year of employment with the federal government.

State – Fort Smith correctional officers are required to take 280 hours of training at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy in Tucker before beginning employment. Courses include:

  • Defensive tactics/self-defense
  • Managing stress
  • Training as a transportation officer
  • Firearms
  • Jail standards
  • Searches of vehicles
  • Training in the usage of a Taser
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Inmate grievances

Continuing education of 40 hours per year is required after a year of employment with the Arkansas Department of Corrections.

Correctional Facilities in Fort Smith

Federal

  • Federal Correctional Institution – Texarkana (located 130 miles from Fort Smith near the Texas/Arkansas border, in Texas)

State

  • Texarkana Regional Correction Center, Texarkana, AR
  • Northwest Arkansas Work Release Center, Springdale (located 67 miles from Fort Smith)

County

  • Sebastian County Adult Detention Center, Fort Smith
  • Sebastian County Juvenile Detention Center, Fort Smith

Lincoln County, Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

Operating out of Lincoln County, Arkansas about 60 miles from Little Rock, the Cummins Unit is an expansive state prison housing approximately 1,850 inmates. About one-third of those incarcerated were convicted of homicide.

The Arkansas Department of Correction hires officers for the Cummins Unit. The assignment depends upon the applicant’s work history and level of experience. Some corrections officers are responsible for counseling or educating inmates. General duties include screening visitors and mail entering the facility, handling monetary deposits made by the family members and friends of inmates, supervising crews working on the on-site farm, transporting prisoners to court and other off-site appointments, searching jail cells and ensuring inmates do not escape the facility.

Approximately 470 people work at the Cummins Unit in various capacities.

Steps to Becoming a Correctional Officer in Lincoln County, Arkansas

Education and Experience Requirements – Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and undergo a criminal background check, drug test, physical and psychological fitness testing, and pass a basic skills exam. Applicants must also have a current Arkansas driver’s license and a high school diploma or its equivalent.

Training Requirements – The Arkansas Department of Correction requires that all new officers undergo a 280-hour training academy. The program covers state correctional rules, how to handle problems among inmates, firearms and taser training, self-defense tactics, and physical fitness conditioning.

Each year state correctional officers complete another 40 hours of classroom education.

Cummins Unit Past and Present

Formerly known as the Cummins State Farm, the prison grounds cover nearly 16,500 acres. Arkansas does have the death penalty and performed its first execution in 1913. However, Arkansas officials have not executed any inmates since 2005. The Cummins Unit houses “death row” cellblocks for male and female prisoners. The male death row block is called the Varner Unit, while the female death row block is known as the McPherson Unit. Unlike most prisons, the Cummins Unit has some housing options for selected corrections employees and their family members. The state first purchased the property on which the Cummins Unit is housed in 1902. A potentially lethal electrified fence secures the entire property.

Programs available to inmates include substance abuse recovery groups, parenting classes, anger management groups, a service dogs training unit, a horse program, and agricultural and industrial training. The Cummins Unit has the oldest and largest agricultural operation in the entire Arkansas correctional system. Inmates harvest crops such as corn, cotton, and rice while being supervised by guards riding horses. The agricultural unit also supports hay and livestock. The first prison rodeo in Arkansas was held at the Cummins Unit in 1972.

The Cummins Unit was sharply criticized in previous generations by civil rights activists. Racial segregation, harsh working conditions, tainted blood transfusions, and other abuses were widely publicized by journalists. However, in modern times the Cummins Unit is more often than not lauded as being a fair place for inmates and a good site for employees.

Little Rock, Arkansas Corrections Officer Job Description

A May 2013 news story reported that the majority of prisoners released in the state of Arkansas settle in the Little Rock area. A study conducted by the Clinton School of Public Service found that three Little Rock zip codes were the main addresses for the majority of parolees in the state. Some fear that the heavy population of ex-criminals in these already crime-ridden neighborhoods could be perpetuating the cycle of crime in Little Rock. As a result, correctional officers working at the federal and state prisons in and near Little Rock often encounter many inmates more than once in the course of their careers.

Education Requirements for State and Federal Correctional Officers in Little Rock

Federal – Little Rock federal correctional officer jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in any field in order to apply. Higher-grade federal correctional officer jobs require nine hours of graduate studies to be completed. Additionally, federal correctional officers in Little Rock must be under the age of 37 to apply.

State of Arkansas – A high school diploma or GED is the minimum requirement for State of Arkansas correctional officers in Little Rock. They must also be at least 18 years of age, have a valid driver’s license and pass a thorough background/criminal history check.

Training for Correctional Officers in Little Rock

Federal – Federal new hires in Little Rock take three weeks of orientation training conducted both at the job site and at the Federal Law Enforcement Center in Glynco, Georgia to learn how to become correctional officers. The following areas of expertise are covered:

  • Self-defense
  • Firearms training
  • Policies and procedures
  • Physical conditioning

Thereafter, federal correctional officers in Little Rock must complete 40 hours of continuing education annually to keep their jobs.

State of Arkansas – State of Arkansas correctional officers in Little Rock complete 280 hours of initial training at the Willis H. Sargent Training Academy in Tucker. These areas are covered in training:

  • Stress management
  • Defensive tactics
  • Firearms
  • Transportation officer training
  • Vehicle searches
  • Jail standards
  • Taser training
  • Inmate grievances
  • Interpersonal communication

Thereafter, they must complete 40 hours of continuing education annually to keep their jobs.

Little Rock’s State and Federal Correctional Institutions

Federal

  • Forest City Federal Correctional Complex, 85 miles east of Little Rock
    • FCI Forest City Low (low-security)
    • FCI Forest City Medium (medium-security)

State of Arkansas

  • Wrightsville Unit, 10 miles south of Little Rock in Wrightsville, Pulaski County
  • Ouachita River Unit, 35 miles from Little Rock in Malvern, Hot Springs County
  • Benton Unit, 26 miles from Little Rock in Benton, Saline County
  • Boot Camp, 37 miles from Little Rock in Tucker, Jefferson County
  • Pine Bluff Unit, 44 miles from Little Rock in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County

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