New Jersey Corrections Officer Job Description

New Jersey is home to two federal correctional facilities; Federal Correctional Institution Fairton is a medium security facility with a minimum security prison camp adjacent to it, and the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix is a low security male facility also with an attached minimum security male prison camp. In the latest population count, FCI Fairton held 1,504 inmates, and FCI Fort Dix housed 4,755 inmates.

The crime rate in New Jersey increased three percent in 2011 as compared to 2010.  In 2011, a non-violent crime occurred every 2 minutes and 46 seconds on average, while violent crimes occurred every 19 minutes and 21 seconds.  Because of this, the New Jersey Department of Corrections supports about 10,000 employees, mostly in correctional officer jobs.

New Jersey has the highest average salary for correctional officers in the country.  It was $69,310 in 2012.

Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in New Jersey

Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons only hires candidates who meet these basic requirements:

  • Are U.S. citizens (some high need facilities may waive this requirement)
  • Are between 20 and 37 years of age
  • Have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Have no history of serious financial indebtedness

For candidates to obtain a correctional officer job at the GS-5 level, they must also satisfy these requirements:

  • Have a bachelor’s degree; or
  • Have at least three years of experience in teaching, counseling, management, sales, or emergency response

To enter the BOP at the GS-6 level candidates should possess these qualifications:

  • Have a year of experience in law enforcement, mental health treatment, or corrections; or
  • Have at least nine semester hours of graduate study in law, social science or criminal justice
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New Jersey Department of Corrections

The first step to becoming a correctional officer in New Jersey is to apply to take the written examination for prospective correctional officers.  The minimum requirements to apply for correctional officer jobs in New Jersey include:

  • Having a high school or vocational diploma or a GED
  • Being able to read and write fluently in English
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Having U.S. citizenship
  • Being a resident of New Jersey
  • Possessing a driver’s license that is valid in New Jersey
  • Being eligible to possess a firearm

Disqualifying factors include:

  • Having a poor driving record
    • DUI Convictions (Two or more)
    • Moving violations (Eight or more)
    • Driving while suspended convictions (Two or more within eight years)
    • Convictions for reckless driving (Two or more within eight years)
    • Failing to appear in court (Twice or more within eight years)
  • Having the following convictions:
    • Disorderly offense (within 10 years of application)
    • An offense involving dishonesty
    • Any offense resulting in crime of the 4th degree or higher
    • An offense involving lewdness
    • Domestic violence
    • Possession and/or sale of a controlled substance
    • Having been incarcerated for a conviction

Steps to Becoming a Correctional Officer in New Jersey

Applicants who have been found to be suitable will be contacted to take the written examination to become a correctional officer.  If there are vacancies available, candidates who scored and ranked well on the exam will be notified to report for pre-employment processing.  There are four phases to this process.

Phase 1 and 2:

  • Completing an employment application and paying a fee ($35 in 2013)
  • Undergoing a computer background check
  • Taking a written psychological examination
  • Being fingerprinted
  • Undergoing drug testing by urinalysis

Phase 3 involves a background check including personal interviews and visits to the applicant’s home and/or job.  When positions are available, candidates will be notified to report for Phase 4:  a complete medical exam and an interview with a psychologist.  Candidates who pass this process are appointed as a Correction Officer Apprentice.

Training to Become a Correctional Officer in New Jersey

Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy

Training for new federal correctional officers is a 200 hour program that is split between the assigned correctional facility and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy. The first 80 hours serve as an orientation to the prison, while the remaining 120 hours include classroom and practicum instruction in firearms, self-defense, bus operations, and federal correctional policies and procedures. Depending on location and job assignment, federal correctional officers must receive between 16 and 40 hours of additional training annually.

New Jersey Department of Corrections Training Academy

Correction Officer Apprentices undergo 14 weeks of live-in paid training at the Correctional Staff Training Academy in Sea Girt.  They must complete the 350 hour Basic Course for State Corrections Officers.  The courses taken include:

  • Introduction to:
    • Corrections
    • Criminal law
    • Criminal procedures
    • Firearms and defensive tactics
  • Human relations in the correctional setting
  • Health and wellness in the correction environment
  • Correctional security practices and procedures
  • Report writing

Trainees must score 70% on the written examinations in each of the areas.  They must achieve an 80% score on:

  • The handgun qualification course:  3 consecutive firings
  • Use of force
  • First aid and CPR/ADE

They must score 100% on the 22 performance objectives deemed critical to the position of correctional officer.  Those who succeed in completing this program will be appointed to be a Correction Office Recruit and serve a test period of a year.  After successfully completed this period, they will be designated a senior correction officer.

Corrections Officer Salary in New Jersey

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2012 the average corrections officer salary in New Jersey was $69,310. The median, however, was about 7% higher at $74,380. It was also noted that corrections officers in the 90th percentile averaged significantly more at $88,440.

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In New Jersey, the highest paying area for corrections officers was the metropolitan division of Edison and New Brunswick. In this region, there was an average of $72,790, which was $34.99 per hour.

According to the New Jersey Department of Corrections, correction officers are paid a starting salary of $40,000 during the recruitment/training phase. The salary range thereafter for a senior correction officer is $44,039 to $80,395.

The following are the salaries of correctional officers throughout New Jersey, as provided by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ
Edison-New Brunswick NJ Metropolitan Division
Newark-Union NJ-PA Metropolitan Division
New York-White Plains-Wayne NY-NJ Metropolitan Division
Vineland-Millville-Bridgeton NJ
Wilmington DE-MD-NJ Metropolitan Division

Atlantic City, New Jersey Corrections Officer Job Description

Forty miles outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey is the Federal Correctional Institution at Fairton. FCI Fairton is a medium security facility with a minimum security prison satellite camp.  In 2013, FCI Fairton reported 1,359 inmates at its main facility, and 111 inmates at its satellite camp.  Originally opened in 1990, FCI Fairton consists of four major housing units.  Each unit has an assigned unit manager, case manager, correctional counselor, and unit officers.

Newly arrived inmates are immediately assigned to food service for the first 90 days.  During this period inmates are delegated to one of several long term work assignments including facilities maintenance, health services, education, clothing, safety & sanitation, or UNICOR work units.  UNICOR is a federal government corporation that utilizes prison labor to produce goods eventually purchased by government agencies.

Bayside State Prison is located just outside of Atlantic City and is operated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections.  Opened in 1970, this facility housed 2,206 inmates in 2013.  There are three housing units of varying security levels.  Bayside State Prison is perhaps most famous for the  month long lockdown following the murder of a correctional officer 1997.  Following the lockdown, there were widespread complaints that almost 57 guards in the Special operations group had abused inmates during searches and interrogations.  This resulted in several lawsuits by inmates that resulted in civil awards to the litigants.  A decision by the U.S. District Court in 2010 would expand the number of possible lawsuits.

How to Become a Correctional Officer in Atlantic City, New Jersey

New Jersey Department of Corrections

The New Jersey Department of Corrections offers numerous correctional officer jobs in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  At a starting salary of $40,000, these jobs require that applicants possess the following qualifications:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • Must be at least 18 years old
  • Must be a U.S. citizen
  • Must have a valid state driver’s license

New correctional officers must attend the 14-week NJ Police Training Commission course held at the Correctional Staff Training Academy designed to prepare them to become correctional officers in Atlantic City.  This program involves a rigorous physical education, firearms and self-defense program as well as classroom instruction in

  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional issues
  • Police practices
  • Communication
  • Psychological and social issues

Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons may only hire candidates who have completed a four-year program of collegiate education or performed at least three years of professional service in the following fields:

  • Teaching
  • Counseling
  • Emergency response
  • Management
  • Sales

Candidates with these qualifications may join the BOP at the GS-5 pay grade, which pays an annual salary from $31,315 up to $40,706.  Candidates who have at least nine semester hours of graduate study or a year or more of professional experience in the following fields may join the bureau at the GS-6 pay grade, which offers salaries from $34,907 to $45,376:

  • Law enforcement
  • Mental illness treatment
  • Corrections

Following hiring, new correctional officers must complete 80 hours of training at their assigned federal facility and 120 hours at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academy in Glynco, GA.

Newark, New Jersey Corrections Officer Job Description

The Essex County Department of Corrections has two facilities located in Newark:

  • The Essex County Juvenile Detention Center
  • The Essex County Correctional Facility
    • Designed to hold about 2,370 inmates

Correctional officers that work for this agency ensure that the inmates are confined at a level secure enough to protect the public while allowing the prisoners to prepare for reintegration into the community.

The high quality of care at the Essex County Correctional Facility has been demonstrated through rating, accreditation, and certification by various agencies.  The New Jersey Department of Corrections’ Bureau of County Services issued a 100% compliance rating for the facility from 2007 to 2010.

In addition, the National Commission on Correctional Health provided accreditation. The Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities also certified the institution.

Requirements and Application Process to Become a Correctional Officer in Newark

Individuals seeking corrections officer jobs with Essex County must first take the New Jersey Civil Service Exam for county correction officers.  The basic requirement to qualify to take the exam includes being a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old.

The minimal educational requirement for applicants is a high school diploma or GED.  However, the civil service exam for these officers is rigorous, and having college training in corrections or criminal justice can help provide some of the background necessary to score well on this exam.

The civil service exam for county correction officers is part of the Entry Level Law Enforcement (LEE) exam.  The state of New Jersey strongly advises prospective county correctional officers to study for the exam ahead of time.  The state offers two study guides:

  • The LEE Administration Guide
  • The Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB) Assessment Preparation Guide

The first is posted online when the LEE exam is formally announced.  Applicants can access the second guide once they have completed their applications, and subsequently emailed an access code.

Candidates who score well on the civil service exam proceed through the hiring process.  Essex County will administer a background check to promising candidates and evaluate their physical condition through a medical exam.  Passing these two steps is essential to proceeding onto county correctional officer training.

Correctional Officer Training in Essex County

Recruits in Essex County train to become correctional officers at the Essex County College Police Academy, which is located in Cedar Grove.  There are two different courses for county correctional officers, depending on whether they will work at the adult or the juvenile facility.  Both courses provide the training mandated by the Police Training Commission.

Those who will be working at the Essex County Correctional Facility take the 12 week Basic Corrections Course.  Some of the areas that they study include:

  • Firearms training/qualification
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Escorting and transporting
  • Report writing and record keeping
  • Search and security:  cell block management

Recruits who will be juvenile detention officers take the 8-week course on Juvenile Detention Officers Basic Training.  This certified course trains the prospective officers in all aspects related to the concerns and special needs of managing juveniles in a correctional facility.  Some of the topics covered in this course include:

  • Child abuse
  • Adolescent development
  • History of family court
  • Unarmed defensive tactics
  • First aid and CPR

Paterson, New Jersey Corrections Officer Job Description

The Passaic County Jail is under the direction of the Corrections Services Division of the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office.  Located in Paterson, it is the most secure county correctional facility in New Jersey with a motto of  “Security, custody, and control.”

Over 1000 prisoners are housed in the Passaic County Jail including the following:

  • People that are awaiting trial
  • Violators of probation, parole, and bail bond
  • Juveniles who are awaiting transfer to juvenile authorities
  • Mentally ill people who will be transferred to appropriate health facilities
  • Convicted persons who are:
    • Serving short-term sentences
    • Waiting for sentence by the state or execution of their sentence

Correctional officers in Paterson are not only responsible for the security of inmates within the institution; they also provide security while inmates are being transported.  In addition, they supervise offenders when they are on outside work details.

Some of the minimum-security inmates are assigned to teams that assist municipalities and public entities with projects such as landscaping, clean-ups, or painting.  For instance, these inmates repaired potholes at no cost to taxpayers.

Applying to Become a Correctional Officer at Passaic County Jail

The first step to obtain a job as a corrections officer with the Passaic County Jail is to take the New Jersey Civil Service Exam.  The requirements to be able to do this include the following:

  • Having a high school education
  • Being at least 18 years old
  • Being a U.S. citizen

People seeking jobs as correctional officers for Passaic County take the Entry Level Law Enforcement Exam (LEE) for county corrections officers.  Candidates can take advantage of two study guides to prepare for this exam.  The first is the LEE Administration Guide.  This will be posted online the day of the LEE announcement.

The second is the Law Enforcement Aptitude Battery (LEAB) Assessment Preparation Guide.  The state of New Jersey will provide an access code for this guide to candidates once they have completed their applications.

Taking college classes in law enforcement or corrections can help provide a strong background knowledge that would be beneficial when taking this exam.

Promising candidates undergo a background check and a medical evaluation.  Those who pass will proceed to correctional officer training.

Training for Correctional Officers at Passaic County Jail

Recruits learn to become correctional officers by taking the Basic Course for County Correction Officers at the Passaic County Police Academy in Wayne.  They will have to pay $100 to take the course.

The New Jersey Police Training Commission has approved the basic course.  The required courses include the following:

  • Arrest, search, and seizure
  • Communications
  • Correctional security
  • Criminal justice system
  • County agency training
  • Emergency medical care
  • Evidence
  • Human relations
  • Investigation concepts
  • Law in corrections
  • Physical training
  • Professional development
  • Unarmed defense
  • Use of force
  • Weaponry

After completing this course, recruits are highly trained to serve as correctional officers at the Passaic County Jail.

Trenton, New Jersey Corrections Officer Job Description

Just outside of Trenton, New Jersey is the Fort Dix military base, which is also the site of the Federal Correctional Institution-Fort Dix. Fort Dix is the largest prison in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. FCI Fort Dix has a low security facility that houses male prisoners as well as a minimum security satellite camp.

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In 2013, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reported that the low security units held 4,343 inmates, while the minimum security camp housed 416 inmates.  The staff at FCI Fort Dix total 628.

Requirements to Become a Correctional Officer in Trenton, New Jersey

Federal Bureau of Prisons

The Federal Bureau of Prisons will only hire candidates to fill correctional officer jobs in Trenton if hey meet the following qualifications:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Must be between 20 and 37 years of age
  • Must be able to pass an intensive background and financial check
  • Must have a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of full time experience in one of these areas
    • Counseling
    • Teaching
    • Supervision
    • Emergency response

While candidates with only bachelor’s degrees or general work experience may join the BOP at the GS-5 level, which offers a salary between $31,315 up to $40,706, those with at least nine semester hours of graduate coursework or at least one year of specialized professional experience may join at the GS-6 level, which offers salaries between $34,907 to $45,376 for GS-6.  Specialized experience may be obtained in the following fields

  • Corrections
  • Law enforcement
  • Detentions
  • Mental health treatment

Following hiring, new officers must complete 200 hours of pre-service training where they learn to become correctional officers in Trenton.  The first eighty hours are conducted at the assigned correctional facility, and the remainder requires instruction at the Staff Training Academy in Glynco, GA.

New Jersey Department of Corrections

Correctional officer jobs in Trenton are also offered by the New Jersey Department of Corrections.  The starting salary for these jobs is $40,000, but senior correctional officers may receive salaries ranging from $44,039 up to $80,395.  The minimum requirements for this job are

  • At least 18 years of age
  • Must have valid state driver’s license
  • Must be U.S. citizen
  • High school diploma or GED

New correctional officers must attend the 14 week NJ Police Training Commission Course at the Correctional Staff Training Academy.  Following graduation, new recruits will serve for one year as probationary correctional officers.

Serving as a Correctional Officer in Trenton

Correctional officers at Fort Dix monitor all recreational activities, which may include sports, hobbies and music.  The prisoners have access to gymnasium on weekends and holidays, while inmates may partake in art, music or leatherworking classes on a regular basis. The hobby craft program allows inmates to constructively engage in craft making with specialized tools and equipment under close supervision.

The New Jersey State Prison, operated by the New Jersey Department of Corrections, is also found in Trenton.  In 2005, this facility held more than 1,950 male inmates in two security units.  Until 2007, when New Jersey abolished the death sentence, New Jersey State Prison held the state’s death row inmates. The north and south compounds are the highest security and hold prisoners with life sentences.  On average about 320 inmates are placed in punitive isolation daily, while the other 1,600 are allowed controlled access of the prison.

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