During a typical month, there are between 19,000 and 20,000 inmates in Tennessee prisons. It is the responsibility of corrections officers to supervise the inmates in order to ensure the safety of employees, inmates and the public in general. General tasks include the following:
- Conduct video and first hand surveillance of inmates
- Conduct searches of inmates’ cells
- Give CPR and other basic medical procedures when needed
- Issue clothing and other accommodations to inmates
- Perform basic counseling for inmates and families of inmates
- Attend staff meetings in regards to riot control procedures, first aid training and other special circumstances
- Utilize security cameras, firearms, mace, electric gates and other equipment that may be used while on duty
- Stop violent confrontations
- Perform paperwork in regards to the admittance and release of inmates from the prison
Basic Requirements and Qualifications
Federal Corrections Officer Requirements – There is one federal corrections facility in Tennessee, the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Memphis. In order to become a correctional officer in Tennessee at the federal level, applicants must meet different criteria, which includes the following:
- Must be younger than 37 years of age, unless the applicant has previously worked in federal civilian law enforcement
- Must have a bachelor’s degree or three years of experience in a related career field
State Corrections Officer Requirements – In order to obtain correctional officer jobs in Tennessee, applicants must first meet the minimum qualifications and requirements for the position. Requirements include, but are not limited, to the following:
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- Must have a high school diploma or GED
- Must be able to carry a firearm
- Must be of good moral character
- Must have no criminal record
- Must have a valid drivers license
Applicants who possess an associates degree or a bachelors degree from an accredited university are given preference during the initial hiring process.
Examinations and Other Pre-Training Requirements
In order to be accepted into the correctional officer training academy, potential employees must complete a series of examinations. There is a physical examination and a psychological examination that is performed by a licensed professional in accordance with standards defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act. Applicants must also complete a written examination that is required of all people seeking employment with the state of Tennessee.
Federal Training – Recruits working at FCI- Memphis are required to complete 200 total hours of training, which includes 120 hours of specialized training at a regional Federal Bureau of Prisons training academy.
State Training – Once hired, a recruit must enroll in the Tennessee Correction Academy and graduate before beginning an official correctional officer career in the state. The training consists of 240 hours of training and classes, ranging from CPR certification, to communication techniques and firearms and special weapons handling. The Basic Correction Officer training schedule is six weeks long and should be completed within two weeks of the date of hire.
After the first year of employment, all corrections officers are required to complete 40 hours of additional training and recertification each year that they are employed by the Tennessee Department of Corrections. The additional training varies depending on the correctional institution, but all training criteria is approved by the corrections academy and is fairly consistent throughout all of the state and federal penitentiaries in Tennessee.
State Corrections Officer Salary – Entry level corrections officers in Tennessee are paid around $2,000 per month on average, although it can vary depending on qualifications, previous experience and performance during the hiring and training periods. Employment includes a comprehensive health and life insurance plan, as well as paid leave, vacation and other benefits.
Federal Corrections Officer Salary – Federal officers get paid $39,020 annually on average. Federal employees receive the same benefits and incentives as correctional officers working for state-level correctional institutions.
Corrections Officer Salary in Tennessee
It was found by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that during 2012 the average Tennessee correctional officer salary was $31,620.
The highest paying area in the state was Clarksville where the average salary was $34,440, about 8.1% higher than the statewide average.
The Tennessee Department of Human Resources reports the following correctional officer salaries:
- Minimum: $24,264
- Maximum: $38,820
- Minimum: $26,364
- Maximum: $42,180
- Minimum: $28,632
- Maximum: $45,828
- Minimum: $31,128
- Maximum: $49,824
- Minimum: $35,292
- Maximum: $56,484
Correctional Unit Manager:
- Minimum: $35,292
- Maximum: $56,484
Here are some of the salary figures among corrections officers in different regions in Tennessee, according to the Department of Labor:
Chattanooga, Tennessee Corrections Officer Job Description
According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce, there were 1,390 correctional officers and jailers employed throughout the state in 2012. Chattanooga is the seat of Hamilton County, which was among the top counties advertising job opening for correctional officers as of April 2014.
In addition, since there are three different correctional facilities located in Chattanooga, employment opportunities for correctional officers may be greater here than in neighboring cities. These facilities include:
- Hamilton County Jail
- Silverdale Correctional Facility
- Hamilton County Detention Center
Education for Correctional Officers
Tennessee residents interested in becoming correctional officers in Chattanooga are encouraged to pursue college-level courses in a career-related discipline. Although the Tennessee Department of Corrections only requires a high school diploma to practice, employers often favor candidates that acquire post-secondary education.
Reports by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce indicate that close to half of all correctional officers in the state have some college-level training:
- 22.43% have completed college courses
- 15.17% have a post-secondary certificate
- 5.07% hold an associate’s degree
Tennessee is home to several colleges and universities with degree options in areas like law enforcement and criminology justice. Students that are unable to relocate for on-site education can always access online schools. Examples of field-related online courses include:
- Criminal Justice Report Writing
- Intro to Corrections
- Criminal Evidence
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Criminal Procedure
- Constitutional Law
- Criminal Law
- Computer Applications
Training for Correctional Officers in Chattanooga
Correctional officers that are hired in Chattanooga enter a Basic Correctional Officer Training Course upon securing employment. This program is directed by the Tennessee Correction Academy and lasts for six weeks. Specialized training programs are also offered in the following areas:
- Cell Extraction
- Stress Management
- Electronic Restraint Device
- Incident Command
- Use of Force
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has a Training Division that provides specialized training for correctional officers in Chattanooga. Areas of training include:
- Defensive Tactics
Working as a Correctional Officer for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office
Correctional officers in Chattanooga may work for the Corrections-Operations Division of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. Employees that work in this division are assigned to one of three main areas:
- Security Shifts: providing 24/7 supervision of inmates and daily operations with the facility
- Mental Health Transports: ensuring safe transport of inmates with mental health conditions
- Facility Inspections: checking for fire safety, cleanliness and maintenance of the facility
A major reason that correctional officers are in demand in Chattanooga, Tennessee is because the city’s high crime rate, including serious crimes that often equate to high incarceration levels. As s result, more correctional officers are needed to supervise offenders. According to the Chattanooga Police Department, there were 12,869 crime committed in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2012:
- 7,769 Larceny
- 2,397 Burglary
- 1,211 Aggravated Assault
- 948 Auto Theft
- 477 Robbery
- 43 Rape
- 24 Homicide
Knoxville, Tennessee Corrections Officer Job Description
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 560 correctional officers and jailers working in Knoxville, Tennessee in 2012, many of which work for the Knox County Sheriff’s Department.
Currently the Knox County Sheriff’s Department is the most prominent law enforcement agency in East Tennessee and boasts a staff of over 1,000 employees. Correctional officers working with the department are responsible for helping the Sheriff’s Office to operate three area detention centers:
- Knox County Sheriff’s Detention Facility
- Work Release Center
- Knox County Jail
Steps to Becoming a Correctional Officer in Knoxville
Application Process – Those looking for correctional officer jobs in Knoxville must submit an application to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office Merit System Council. A correction officer job is considered an entry-level position with an annual salary of close to $30,000. Applicants must be at least twenty-one years old and willing to work any shift assigned upon employment.
Along with an application, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office also requires:
- A fingerprint sample
- A copy of birth certificate
- A copy of high school diploma (or equivalent)
- A current photograph
- A copy of driver’s license
- DD-214 (military personnel only)
- A copy of nursing license (if relevant)
Minimum Requirements – In addition to undergoing its application process, The Knox County Sheriff’s Office requires that all potential correctional officers:
- Be a United States citizen
- Have no felony records
- Have no mental disorders
- Have no dishonorable releases from the armed forces
- Pass physical examination by a licensed professional
- Pass background check to prove moral character
Training Requirements – For most occupations, workers are professionally trained prior to employment. In Knoxville, the Tennessee Corrections Academy teaches new recruits how to become competent correctional officers through their basic training program after they are hired.
The Basic Correctional Officer Training (BCOT) program lasts for a period of six weeks under the guidelines of the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Correctional Officer Education Options
Although correctional officers are only required to graduate from high school to qualify for jobs in Knoxville, Tennessee, most employers show preferential treatment to candidates with college experience.
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce reports that 57.34% only have a high school diploma while the remaining have completed college courses, post-secondary certificates or associates degrees.
Degree options include:
- Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice
- Associate of Applied Science in Public Safety
- Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies
- Bachelor of Science in Human Services
- Master of Science in Criminal Justice
- Master of Science in Administration of Justice
Degree specializations include:
- Criminal Justice
- Forensic Psychology
- Homeland Security
- Police Studies
- Juvenile Justice
- Information Technology
Memphis, Tennessee Corrections Officer Job Description
Memphis is home to federal, state and private prisons that employ most of the state’s corrections officers.
Corrections officers are responsible for the security, care and supervision of inmates at all times and in all places. A corrections officer may be assigned to any of these posts:
- Housing units
- Count room
- Armory/key control
- Central or pod control
- Dining room
- Educational/vocational units
- Yard/recreation areas
- Segregated units
- Medical ward
Requirements for Becoming a Corrections Officer in Memphis
The following are requirements for those who wish to become a correctional officer with the federal Bureau of Prisons, the Tennessee Department of Correction and CCA:
- U.S. citizen
- Excellent physical condition
- Good moral character
- No felony convictions
- Available to work all days and shifts
- Complete that agency’s corrections officer training
Requirements specific to the Tennessee Department of Corrections and CCA include:
- High school graduate or GED
- 18 years of age or older
Requirements specific to the federal Bureau of Prisons:
- No older than 37 years of age
- Bachelor’s degree or higher OR three years full-time, relevant experience
Federal and Federally Contracted Private Prisons in Memphis
Federal Correctional Institution. This federal Bureau of Prisons facility primarily houses medium-security male inmates. It also includes a satellite prison camp for minimum-security males that supplies inmate labor to both the main facility and community work projects.
West Tennessee Detention Center. This federal prison is operated by CCA, a private company that builds, operates and maintains correctional facilities. The 600-bed prison for multi-security males is located in the city of Mason, 45 miles outside of Memphis. The prison has been owned and operated by CCA since 1990.
State Correctional Facilities in Memphis
West Tennessee State Penitentiary. This maximum-security prison for males opened in 1990 and houses approximately 2,505 inmates that present maximum or medium security risks. The facility provides such educational opportunities as GED preparation, college correspondence courses and microcomputer technology classes as well as vocational training in woodworking and masonry. There are also work programs at a farm, digital tag plant and textile plant.
Mark H. Luttrell Correctional Center. This is one of the two prisons for women in the Tennessee state prison system. The facility has a capacity to house 436 offenders, the majority of whom are designated as needing “close” supervision. A minimum-security annex houses 120 women. The facility provides educational and library services, various support groups and a dog-training program.
Nashville, Tennessee Corrections Officer Job Description
Nashville is home to four state prisons that provide job opportunities for individuals who want to serve as correctional officers within the Tennessee prison system:
Charles B. Bass Correctional Complex. Roughly 750 male felons live in 16 housing units. The facility provides an intense mental health program for sex offenders. Some of the prison’s minimum-security inmates do community service work in Nashville.
Lois H. De Berry Special Needs Facility. Focuses on the physical and mental health needs of inmates, including acute and convalescent care, as well as a special unit for those with long-term medical needs. The facility has a 250-bed turnover every month.
Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. The facility opened in 1989 to replace a 100-year old penitentiary. The 132-acre high-tech facility occupies 20 building that house approximately 600 medium- and maximum-security high-risk male offenders. It is also home to most of Tennessee’s death row inmates that included 80 men as of February 1, 2013. Riverbend has two prison industries, a data entry plant and a print shop.
Tennessee Prison for Women. The main facility for female felons in Tennessee houses women of all security levels, from those with short sentences to those on death row (one female as of February 1, 2013). Inmates can earn their GED certificate or learn a vocation such as cosmetology, greenhouse management, construction, culinary arts or dog training. The prison also has programs that address drug/alcohol addiction and anger management.
How to Become a Correctional Officer in Nashville
The requirements for obtaining correctional officer jobs in Nashville include:
- U.S. citizen
- Over 18 years of age
- High school diploma or GED certificate
- Valid driver’s license
- Good moral character
- No felony convictions
- Honorable discharge if ex-military
- Willingness to carry and use a firearm
- Pass both a medical and psychological examination
- Pass a drug-screening test
Interested men and women interested in learning how to become correctional officers in Nashville and who meet these requirements should directly contact the correctional facility they would most like to work at. A directory of prisons can be found online at the Tennessee Department of Correction website/state prisons.
There is no test for the position of correctional officer; however, candidates will be personally interviewed. Those who are accepted will spend six weeks in training, the first two at the hiring facility and the next four at the Tennessee Correction Academy in Tullahoma.
The annual salary for entry-level correctional officers is $24,852. Benefits include paid vacations, sick leave, health insurance, free uniforms/equipment, free meals when on duty and a retirement plan.
Whiteville, Tennessee Corrections Officer Job Description
Correctional officers can be found working in the two medium-security correctional facilities located in Hardeman County:
Hardeman County Correctional Facility
- Opened in 1997
- Accredited by the ACA
- Capacity of 1,976
- Medium-security facility
Whiteville Correctional Facility
- Opened in 2002
- Accredited by the ACA
- Capacity of 1,505
- Medium-security facility
According to the Corrections Corporation of American, corrections officers employed here are often assigned to a variety of posts, including:
- Armory/Key Control
- Central or Pod Control
- Count Room
- Housing Unit
Education Standards for Correctional Officers in Hardeman County, Tennessee
Corrections officers are only required to have a high school diploma to work in state correctional facilities in Whiteville, Tennessee. However, many applicants choose to pursue an education that exceeds this minimum standard.
According to a work-study conducted by the American Corrections Association, 63.9% of all correctional officers have at least some college experience. In fact, 25% of them hold formal degrees:
- 19% bachelor’s degree
- 4.5% master’s degree
- 1.5 Ph.D. degree
Fortunately, Tennessee offers many traditional on-campus universities and colleges, as well as accredited online schools that provide students with several certificate and degree programs, examples include:
- Technical Certificate in Law Enforcement Training
- Technical Certificate in Homeland Security
- Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
- Associate of Applied Science in Corrections
- Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice
- Bachelor of Arts in Criminology
- Master of Arts in Criminal Justice Administration
- Master of Science in Criminology
Accumulating ongoing education and training can help bring better job security and higher wages, as well as more opportunities for advanced positions. According to the Unites States Bureau of Labor Statistics, correctional officers could advance to become correctional sergeants or qualify for supervisory and administrative correctional officer jobs. More education could also create leverage for a move into related career, such as:
- Probation officers
- Parole officers
- Correctional treatment specialists
Other Basic Requirements for Corrections Officers in Hardeman County
According to the Tennessee Department of Corrections, aside from the education and training requirements needed to become a correctional officer in Hardeman County, job candidates must also:
- Be legally allowed to use and carry necessary weaponry
- Have US citizenship
- Prove good, moral character
- Disclose criminal background history
- Release all criminal history records
- Submit a fingerprint sample
- Hold no felony convictions
- Hold no dishonorable discharges from the armed forces
- Pass physical examination
- Pass illegal drug screening
- Pass psychological examination
- Hold a valid driver’s license
Training Expectations for Corrections Officers in Hardeman County, TN
Once employed in Hardeman County, correctional officers undergo a mandatory six-week training program with the Tennessee Correction Academy. During the first two weeks of employment, correctional officers undergo on-site training at their place of employment. The remaining four weeks of training are conducted at the Tennessee Correction Academy under the supervision and direction of the drill instructor unit.
According to the US BLS, most training regimes are structured around American Corrections Association guidelines, and include instructions on institutional procedures regarding: