Upon being hired by a correctional institution, whether state or federal, all new correctional officer cadets must complete a course of basic academy training designed specifically for correctional officers.
This formal training period – often referred to as pre-service training – is mandatory for all new correctional officers across all levels of local, state and federal detention facilities. Many correctional facilities require training to be completed immediately upon hiring a new CO, however, most facilities provide new correctional officers with a time frame for completing academy training – usually 6 to 12 months after being hired.
General Expectations of CO Academy Training
All training within a correctional officer academy is focused on integrity, outstanding conduct, superb written and verbal communication skills, professionalism, and competency. Academies often provide housing, with cadets given the choice of living on or off campus during training. Larger academy training campuses have a number of amenities, such as well-appointed dormitories, computer learning centers, gymnasiums, fitness facilities, and full-service cafeterias.
The first order of business upon entrance into the academy is academy orientation for new cadets, which involves becoming familiar with how the academy operates and what is expected during academy training.
Correctional officer academies are multi-faceted, as they contain a blend of physical training, classroom training, and hands-on field training. Some academies are as little as 3 to 4 weeks in duration, while others can be as long as 16 to 20 weeks.
However, training in correctional officer academies is not usually sequential, meaning that physical, classroom and field training do not take place one after another; instead, the curriculum is blended, with cadets often engaging in physical training in the morning and classroom training in the afternoon, for example.
Correctional Officer Academy Classroom Training
During academy training, cadets typically attend classroom training 5 days a week, during which time they cover a wide breadth of topics, such as:
- Community Safety Through Offender Re-Entry
- Culture and Communication Skills
- Defensive Tactics and Self-Defense
- Environmental Procedures
- Firearms Training
- First Aid/CPR
- Managing Special Needs Offenders
- Offender Disciplinary Procedures
- Offender Rights, Privileges and Responsibilities
- Preventing Workplace Violence
- Report Writing
- Public Image
- Riot Prevention and Control
- Suicide Prevention and Intervention
- Use of Force/Use of Restraints
Classroom curriculum usually culminates in weekly exams, all of which must be passed by cadets to continue with the academy training.
Correctional Officer Academy Physical Training
Due to the mental and physical demands of working as a correctional officer, physical conditioning is an important component of academy training. During physical training, cadets are expected to complete a number of structured hours of physical exercise, which may include walking, running, muscle conditioning, obstacle courses, and self-defense tactics, among others.
Correctional Officer Academy Graduation
Upon the successful completion of correctional officer academy training, all new cadets are sworn in as correctional officers and given their assignment details.
Regular, in-service training is an important part of a career as a correctional officer, with most correctional facilities requiring that officers complete a minimum number hours (usually about 40 hours) of training each year.