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According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 2.27 million adults incarcerated in 1,821 federal and state prisons as of 2011. Institutions must be managed efficiently and resourcefully so as to maintain order and deal with such issues as overcrowding and a burdened correctional system. As such, skilled and competent professionals, such as correctional program officers, must be at the helm, ensuring that a facility’s operations and programs run seamlessly at all times.
Correctional program officers, also often referred to as unit managers, are tasked with overseeing an entire housing unit within a correctional institution and the programs within that unit. This administrative position includes planning, developing, and implementing programs, with unit security taking precedence over all other areas.
Job Duties of Correctional Program Officers
Correctional program officers have full responsibility over the operations of the unit. They serve as first-line supervisors, working directly alongside other members of the correctional team, including correctional treatment specialists, unit secretaries, and correctional counselors.
Typical daily duties of correctional program officers include:
- Overseeing all counseling, rehabilitation and custodial care and treatment of inmates
- Interviewing inmates and obtaining criminal histories of all inmates
- Counseling inmates on program and placement
- Ensuring all inmates are educated on institutional rules, regulations, policies and procedures
- Supervising community work crews
- Investigating all breaches of security, inmate activity, and inmate disturbances
- Responding to medical emergencies
Entrance Requirements for Correctional Program Officers
Because of the supervisory nature of this position, the minimum requirements for employment include a bachelor’s degree or higher, usually in a social science or behavioral science field.
Acceptable areas of study often include:
- Criminal justice
- Social work
- Law enforcement
Professional Certification for Correctional Program Officers
Although correctional program officers do not need to be certified, many seek professional certification to broaden the scope of their expertise or advance their careers. The American Correctional Association offers two types of professional certification for correctional program officers:
- Certified Corrections Supervisor (CCS) – Mid-management level positions for professionals responsible for implementing agency policies and procedures and supervising and/or evaluating personnel
- Certified Corrections Manager (CCM) – Management professionals who manage major units or programs within a corrections setting
Salary and Employment Statistics for Correctional Program Officers
Federal correctional program officers through the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Department of Justice), according to a recent job announcement, earn between $76,644 and $99,636.
Other state correctional program officer salaries (according to recent job postings) include:
- Maine: $43,305 to $59,280
- Minnesota: $48,817 to $72,391 (director $55,645 to $80,137)
- West Virginia: $45,823 to $58,707
- New York: $68,809 to $89,450