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According to statistics published by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, U.S. law enforcement agencies made approximately 1.9 million arrests of juveniles under the age of 18 in 2009. There are about 70 million young Americans in the juvenile age classification – about 1 in every 4 Americans – and this age group, according to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, is projected to increase considerably through 2015.
At the core of juvenile correctional facilities are juvenile correctional officers, who are the key professionals tasked with providing security to incarcerated juvenile delinquents who are either charged or sentenced for crimes. The scope of their job includes overseeing the correctional facility, maintaining order, and ensuring the well-being and safety of the inmates.
Juvenile correctional officer jobs are found at detention centers, drug treatment centers, and correctional facilities for youths located in nearly every major city from coast to coast.
Juvenile Correctional Officer Primary Job Duties
The most apparent job duty of a juvenile correctional officer involves providing safety and security to incarcerated juveniles. Job duties within this capacity often include:
- Transporting inmates to and from court hearings, medical facilities, classes or recreational activities
- Patrolling correctional facility to ensure it is clean, secure, and well-maintained
- Supervising inmates throughout the day, including meal time and recreational time
- Completing daily reports
- Completing incident reports when violence or disorder erupts
- Providing intensive security for juveniles with higher risk or security status
- Enforcing the rules and regulations of the correctional facility
- Reporting breaches of security or inappropriate behavior to supervisors
However, beyond general security and supervision, juvenile correctional officers also often engage in:
- Working with therapeutic teams to facilitate group discussions and counseling sessions
- Teaching juvenile offenders basic life skills, problem-solving skills, rehabilitative skills and behavioral management
- Observing and recording the progress of juvenile offenders and reporting it to supervisors
- Observing and recording mental and physical health and behavioral concerns of juvenile offenders and reporting it to supervisors
- Following medical orders and dispensing medication to juvenile offenders
- Providing vocational counseling and providing counseling referrals to juveniles and their families
Education Requirements for Juvenile Correctional Officers
Although education requirements for juvenile correctional officers vary according to region and correctional facility, in general, these professionals must possess a high school diploma or GED and, in some cases, college degrees or college coursework, usually in the social sciences, such as criminal justice, psychology, sociology, or criminal justice.
The Hiring Process for Juvenile Correctional Officers
Standard minimum employment requirements for juvenile correctional officers are quite uniform across the board. Juvenile correctional officers must be at least 18 years old, although many programs require candidates to be at least 21 years old.
It is typical for candidates to take written entrance exams and physical fitness assessments. Further, candidates are usually subject to:
- Background investigations
- Polygraph examinations
- Psychological evaluations
- Medical examinations
- Urinalysis (drug screenings)
Training Programs for Juvenile Correctional Officers
New juvenile correctional officers undergo basic academy training from state or local agencies upon being hired, and juvenile correctional officers can expect to undergo annual, in-service training throughout their careers.
Some of the coursework covered in basic academy training for juvenile correctional officers includes:
- Juvenile Rights
- Youth Supervision
- Record Keeping
- Inmate Health
- Use of Force
- Restraining Techniques
- First Aid/CPR Training
Salary and Employment Statistics for Juvenile Correctional Facilities
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), there were 475,300 correctional officers and jailers in 2010. This number is projected to increase 5 percent to 499,800 in 2020.
The BLS also reported that the average salary for correctional officers was $39,020 in 2010. Salaries for juvenile correctional officers across the country include:
- In California, the average starting salary for youth correctional officers is $44,928 after academy training.
- In Texas, the average starting salary for juvenile correctional officers $27,869, with youth correctional officers with 60 hours of college credits, an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree eligible to start at a higher salary.
- In Illinois, the starting salary for a juvenile justice specialist is $44,000.
- Maine’s salary range for juvenile correctional officers is $34,112 to $46,176.
Resources for Juvenile Correctional Officers
- National Center for Juvenile Justice
- Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Justice
- Coalition for Juvenile Justice
- Campaign for Youth Justice