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
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:
- Child care
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
- Law enforcement
- Mental health treatment
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
- 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
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
- 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.
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
- 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.