Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Correctional officers working in Washington earn some of the highest entry-level salaries among these professionals nationwide, and work in one of the fastest growing law enforcement fields in the state. Recently the average salary in Washington was calculated at $47,270. Not only are correctional officer jobs financially attractive, they also provide officers with a sense of accomplishment and camaraderie while serving a vital societal need.

Federal correctional officers may work at two facilities in Washington.  The Federal Detention Center in Seattle-Tacoma is a facility holding 734 males and females, at latest count, who are awaiting trial, permanent incarceration or deportation.  The Community Corrections Management Field Office in Seattle offers correctional officers opportunities to assist re-entering offenders, juveniles and probationers.


Federal Correctional Officers

The minimum qualifications for federal correctional officers are

  • U.S. citizenship
  • Have no felony or serious misdemeanor convictions
  • Have no major financial delinquencies
  • Be at least 21 years of age but younger than 37
  • Be physically able to
    • Drag a 75 pound dummy for three minutes across at least 694 feet
    • Climb 108 steps in 45 seconds burdened with a 20 pound weight
    • Climb a ladder and grasp an object within seven seconds
    • Finish an obstacle course in 58 seconds
    • Cross a quarter mile and apply handcuffs to a target within two minutes and 35 seconds
  • Have a bachelor’s degree; or
  • Have three years of experience in
    • Management
    • Emergency response
    • Sales
    • Teaching
    • Security
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More qualified applicants may join the Bureau of Prisons at an elevated salary if they meet these criteria:

  • Have completed at least nine semester hours of graduate courses in law, social science or criminal justice; or
  • Have one year of full time experience in corrections, law enforcement, detentions, or mental health care

Washington Department of Corrections

Candidates interested in learning how to become a correctional officer in Washington are expected to meet the minimum requirements for the career:

  • No significant criminal history
  • Able to work legally in the U.S. with a valid driver’s license
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Very good communication skills
  • Ability to maintain a controlled and structured environment

Candidates may be able to increase their chances of a successful application by having competitive attributes such as:

  • Higher education coursework or degree
  • The ability to speak Spanish
  • Good employment history and references
  • Prior experience in law enforcement, military service, or a related field

Submitting an Application

Before officers begin their training they will need to successfully complete the application process as follows:

Once candidates have demonstrated to the hiring manager they have what it takes to be a skillful and adept officer, they will be recruited and scheduled to attend an officer training program.

Corrections Training in Washington

Federal Correctional Officers

Federal corrections officers must receive 80 hours of orientation at their assigned facility.  Within six months of hiring, new officers must attend the 120 hour training program held at the Staff Training Academy in Glynco, GA.  This program will teach officers about firearms, self-defense, and correctional procedures.

Washington Department of Corrections

New hires will receive their training in subject-block areas that have been identified as critical for corrections officers. These include:

  • Gangs
  • Security management and proper use of force
  • Intake and booking
  • Critical incident and hostage survival
  • Inmate mental problems and interpersonal communication

What to Expect

Corrections officers strive to strike a balance between the supervision and regulation of inmates while providing a rehabilitative and healthy environment. The range of total inmates in Washington State custody in a recent year’s span varied between 17,473 and 18,004. Working as a correctional officer can be dangerous, but this is minimized when all officers follow the correct procedures.

In one recent case a correctional officer did not follow the protocol of handcuffing a particular inmate in the hopes the inmate would behave better. Instead he attacked another corrections officer and tried to grab the keys to a fellow inmate’s cell.

There are 12 main State corrections institutions located across Washington:

  • Airway Heights Corrections Center
  • Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock
  • Clallam Bay Corrections Center
  • Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell
  • Larch Corrections Center in Yacolt near Vancouver
  • Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair
  • Monroe Correctional Complex
  • Olympic Corrections Center in Forks
  • Stafford Creek Corrections Center in Aberdeen
  • Washington Corrections Center in Shelton
  • Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor
  • Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla

Corrections Officer Salary in Washington

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2012 the median corrections officer salary in Washington was $44,210. The average, however, was about 6.5% higher at $47,270.

In Washington, correctional officers are paid on a 12-step graduated salary plan as can be seen here:

Corrections & Custody Officer 1:

  • Step A: $31,704
  • Step B: $32,460
  • Step C: $33,228
  • Step D: $33,984
  • Step E: $34,848
  • Step L (Maximum): $41,316

Corrections & Custody Officer 2:

  • Step A: $33,228
  • Step B: $33,984
  • Step C: $34,848
  • Step D: $35,652
  • Step E: $36,492
  • Step L (Maximum): $43,368

Corrections & Custody Officer 3:

  • Step A: $36,492
  • Step B: $37,404
  • Step C: $38,328
  • Step D: $39,312
  • Step E: $40,260
  • Step L (Maximum): $47,892

Corrections & Custody Officer 4:

  • Step A: $40,260
  • Step B: $41,316
  • Step C: $42,264
  • Step D: $43,368
  • Step E: $44,448
  • Step L (Maximum): $52,872

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has identified the following salaries among corrections officers in regions throughout Washington:

Area name
Annual mean wage
Bremerton-Silverdale WA
Lewiston ID-WA
Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro OR-WA
Seattle-Bellevue-Everett WA Metropolitan Division
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue WA
Tacoma WA Metropolitan Division
Yakima WA
Northwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Southwestern Washington nonmetropolitan area
Central Washington nonmetropolitan area
Eastern Washington nonmetropolitan area

Mason County , Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Mason County is known throughout Washington as being one of the most important places for the state’s Department of Corrections (DOC). This is because it is the home county to three high-profile correctional facilities and a work-release center:

  • Washington Corrections Center in Shelton – operating capacity of 1,268 inmates
  • Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor – operating capacity of 738 inmates
  • Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women in Belfair – operating capacity of 305 inmates
  • Peninsula WR Center in Port Orchard – housing for male and female inmates

The Washington DOC sets the employment standards for correctional officers who work at its Mason County facilities. Applicants must be able to perform essential CO job duties including:

  • Communicate well with inmates and work-release residents with an understanding of psychology
  • Be capable of using physical force against non-compliant offenders when necessary
  • Maintain a safe environment for all offenders

Becoming a Correctional Officer in Mason County with the Washington State DOC

Qualifying for the Job – The minimum credentials for employment as a correctional officer with the Washington State DOC in Mason County are as follows:

  • Have a valid driver’s license
  • Be able to pass a drug and psychological test
  • Be able to carry a firearm
  • Have a high school diploma or GED equivalency
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Some college credit is one of the best ways candidates can demonstrate knowledge of essential correctional officer skills. Aspiring correctional officers in Mason County often hold an associate or bachelor degree in relevant subjects like:

  • Psychology
  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Justice
  • Criminology

Applying and Training for the Job – Applications for Mason County correctional officer jobs are completed online via the state DOC’s employment portal. Applicants can apply through the vacancy announcement for a CO job listed at any facility in Mason County.

Correctional officer training for those working in a prison takes place over the course of six weeks at the Correctional Worker Core academy. COs working at a work release center will attend a nine-day new employee orientation academy. Common to both of these training programs are topics including:

  • Safety training
  • CPR and emergency first aid
  • Offender psychology and risks
  • Infectious diseases
  • Emergency procedures
  • Self-defense and use of force

COs also participate in a program that is unique to Washington, the Correctional Officer Achievement (COACH) Program which provides on-the-job training and supervision throughout the first year of employment.

Working as a Correctional Officer in Mason County

Correctional officers create a stable and secure environment for inmates, making the following inmate programs possible:

  • Vegetable gardens
  • Computer classes
  • Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED programs
  • Stress and anger management educational programs
  • Braille production program
  • Firefighting

COs must be versatile individuals who are capable of dealing with a wide variety of prisoners. This is particularly true of the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, the holding and transit route for all male prisoners in the State DOC system who are not sentenced to death.

Seattle, Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Seattle, Washington is located within the jurisdiction of the Federal Detention Center, SeaTac. This facility employs almost 200 staff and housed 719 detainees in 2013.  Originally opened 1997, FDC SeaTac has a maximum capacity of 1,100 inmates of male or female gender.  The detainees at FDC SeaTac may be pretrial defendants, holdovers or immigration detainees.  A large number of these prisoners are awaiting trial in the Western District of Washington.

Federal Correctional Officer Job Requirements

To become a correctional officer with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, candidates must be college graduates or professionals with at least three years of experience in one of these fields:

  • Counseling
  • Emergency response
  • Management
  • Teaching
  • Sales

Applicants with a bachelor’s degree or professional experience may join the BOP at the GS-5 level, which offers a salary ranging from $31,315 up to $40,706.

Candidates who seek correctional officer jobs in Seattle at the GS-6 level should possess at least nine semester hours of graduate study in social science, criminology, law or criminal justice; or have at least one year of experience in

  • Corrections
  • Law enforcement
  • Mental health treatment.

The salary for GS-6 is between $34,907 and $45,376.  Federal correctional officers may complete their careers at the GS-7 pay grade, which provides a salary of $38,790 to $50,431.

New correctional officers begin their careers by receiving 80 hours of training at their assigned federal correctional facility.  They then must attend a 120 hour training program at the Staff Training Academy in Glynco, Georgia.  This program includes firearms, self-defense, physical training, and correctional policies and procedures.

Federal Detention Center, SeaTac Procedures

Correctional officers must often discipline inmates who have committed a prohibited act.  At FDC SeaTac, there are four categories of proscribed behavior: low severity, moderate severity, high severity and greatest severity.  If an inmate commits such an act, the supervising officer may make one of several responses including informal discussion and resolution, written incident report and filing, or placement on Administrative Detention. If deemed necessary, recreation, commissary, or social visit privileges may be revoked.  Pretrial offenders may have their incident report forwarded to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Inmates of FDC SeaTac may resolve any issues through a variety of methods that involve prison staff.  The most immediate remedy is to discuss any complaint with the supervising correctional officer.  If this fails to resolve the issue, prisoners may file an Administrative Remedy, which requires a detailed description of the problem, reasons why action should be taken, and recommend a resolution. Inmates also have the option of submitting a sensitive complaint, which is a confidential report provided to the Regional Director.

FDC SeaTac offers several educational resources for inmates.  The English as a Second Language program assists inmates whose primary language is other than English.  Successful completion of the program will result in a $25 incentive award and a referral to the GED program.  The Law Library is an electronic database that allows inmates to research legal cases and documents.

Spokane County, Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Spokane County is the site of the third-largest prison under the management of the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) and houses two work release centers. Correctional officers at these facilities are based in and around the Spokane area to ensure justice is served and to offer the chance of rehabilitation to thousands of inmates on an annual basis.

These opportunities for rehabilitation come in the form of inmate programs, one of which is the prison industry program, which gives convicts the chance to create anything from upholstery projects to aerospace composites.

The Washington State DOC facilities in Spokane County include:

  • Airway Heights Correctional Center in Airway Heights – housing prisoners since 1992, this facility has an operating capacity of 2,258 offenders
  • Brownstone Work Release Center in Spokane – provides Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and social service programs to assist with the transition to life as free men
  • Eleanor Chase House Work Release Center in Spokane – for females, offering volunteer opportunities with local non-profits and charity groups, as well as a variety of social education programs

Correctional officers work at these facilities to maintain an environment conducive to offender rehabilitation.

Steps to Becoming a Correctional Officer in Spokane County

Meeting the Qualifications in Spokane County – To become a correctional officer in Spokane County, candidates will need to make sure they have the right qualifications. The Washington DOC states that it needs correctional officers who have the skills it takes to carry out duties that include:

  • Providing safety and security
  • Direct inmates and committed residents
  • Be able to use psychology and good communication abilities to be a positive role model
  • Creative thinking

In a competitive job market, pursing higher-level education is common among Washington’s prospective correctional officers. Candidates for correctional officer jobs in Spokane County often hold an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in subject areas like:

  • Psychology
  • Criminology
  • Law Enforcement
  • Police Science
  • Public Safety
  • Criminal Justice

The DOC defines the minimum requirements for hire as being:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • A high school diploma or GED
  • No felony convictions
  • Ability to carry a firearm, which includes passing a drug screening and psychological evaluation

Application and Training in Spokane County – Correctional officer jobs in Spokane County with the Washington State DOC are posted by location on the DOC’s employment webpage. Candidates who meet the minimum requirements can fill out an online application as soon as it becomes available.

Correctional officer training in Spokane County differs depending on whether a CO is working at a work-release center or at the Airway Heights Correctional Center. For those employed at one of Spokane’s work release centers, training takes place over the course of nine days at the New Employee Orientation Academy.

COs working at the Airway Heights Correctional Facility will receive their training in a six-week Correctional Worker Core Academy, which covers topics such as:

  • Booking and intake
  • Hostage survival
  • Corrections communications
  • Countering inmate manipulation

All new COs also will have one year of supervisory and additional on-the-job training as part of a unique program in Washington State, the Correctional Officer Achievement (COACH) Program.

Thurston County, Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Correctional officers in the Thurston County area have a variety of facilities to consider in both Thurston County and nearby Pierce County. These work sites are found in Olympia and Tacoma, as well as in more rural locations.

  • Cedar Creek Corrections Center in Littlerock, with an operating capacity of 480 inmates
  • Rap House/Lincoln Park Work Release Center in Tacoma, where male and female residents with mental and developmental disabilities are assigned
  • Progress House Work Release Center in Tacoma, assisting male and female residents with alcohol and chemical dependencies
  • Olympia Work Release Center in Olympia, where male and female residents can participate in a chemical dependency program

Each of these facilities offers a unique environment that requires correctional officers to fulfill specialized job roles.

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) sets the standards for candidates interested in becoming a correctional officer in Thurston County.

Employment Qualifications with the Washington State DOC

The absolute minimum qualifications for hire with the Washington State DOC are as follows:

  • High school diploma or GED
  • No felony convictions
  • A valid driver’s license
  • The ability to carry a firearm, as demonstrated through a drug test and psychological evaluation

Prospective applicants who want to stand above their competition can consider obtaining additional optional qualifications that prove key correctional officer skills.

College-level education resulting in an associate or bachelor degree in any of the following majors will demonstrate key attributes including good communication skills, the ability to enforce rules, and an advanced psychological understanding:

  • Law Enforcement
  • Criminal Justice
  • Psychology
  • Public Safety
  • Criminology

Application and Training with the Washington State DOC

The Washington DOC posts all the correctional officer jobs in Thurston County on its careers webpage.

Applications are made through these online announcements when there are posted vacancies.

Correction officer training for those employed at the Cedar Creek Corrections Center takes place at the Correctional Worker Core Academy. Lasting six weeks, this provides new COs with essential instruction on topics including:

  • Emergency medical and disaster procedures
  • Critical incident survival
  • Understanding gangs
  • Inmate mental health, risks, and problems
  • Use of lethal and non-lethal force

COs employed at one of the Thurston County-area work release centers attend a different nine-day training academy, the New Employee Orientation (NEO) program. Here they will learn a similar set of skills.

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Unique to the State of Washington, correctional officers also have the opportunity to pursue a year of special supervision and training as part of the Correctional Officer Achievement (COACH) Program.

Correctional Officers and Inmate Programs in Thurston County

Correctional officers in the Thurston County area carry out their duties with a level of skill that allows inmates and outside organizations to offer programs such as:

  • GED education
  • Trail maintenance in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources
  • Vocational training in:
    • Roofing
    • Siding
    • Drywall installation

Conservation projects are well suited for inmates because of the extensive time and daily observation many of these require. Some of the Cedar Creek Corrections Center’s biological programs have drawn national attention and acclaim, including:

  • Endangered frog hatchery
  • Breeding species of threatened butterflies
  • Growing native flowers

Walla Walla, Washington Corrections Officer Job Description

Walla Walla, Washington is the site of many important correctional facilities including Washington State Penitentiary and Walla Walla County Jail. Washington State Penitentiary opened in 1887, making it the oldest prison in the state, and the second largest with a capacity of 2,200 male prisoners.  This state prison has three units: Low Crime Facility, Medium Crime Facility, and High Crime Facility.  The Low Crime Facility houses offenders serving from 30 to 60 years, while the Medium Crime Facility houses offenders serving 50 years to life.  The High Crime Facility holds prisoners with life sentences as well as those slated for execution.

The Closed Custody Unit at Washington State Penitentiary is devoted to housing gang related inmates. Much of the gang related violence occurring in Washington prisons were involving staff assaults, multi-man assaults, and assaults with weapons. The four phases of the gang behavior management strategy include engagement, enforcement, help and notification. Engagement involves speakers from the community who detail the tragic consequences of gang violence. Enforcement begins with investigation of violent incidents, followed by swift and certain restrictions like limiting telephone access, radio access, or recreational area use. Help includes GED or other educational programs to improve quality of life.

The Walla Walla County Jail is operated the by the county sheriff’s office.  This jail holds typically 85 to 90 prisoners, but that can be extended to more than 100 upon need. The staff consists of a jail superintendent and 21 correctional officers.  The Walla Walla County Jail administers an electronic monitoring program, partial confinement and jail work crews.

Job Requirements for Correctional Officers in Walla Walla Washington

Washington Department of Corrections Job Requirements

In order to become a correctional officer in Walla Walla and serve with the Washington Department of Corrections, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  • Possession of a high school diploma or GED
  • Two years of experience in law enforcement or a related field
  • At least two years of experience in supervision of offenders
  • Ability to pacify escalating situations

Once hired, new Washington state correctional officers must attend the Correctional Worker Core Academy, where they will receive instruction in

  • Use of force
  • Booking and intake
  • Security management
  • Interpersonal communication for corrections
  • Inmate mental problems
  • Fingerprinting
  • Practical law
  • Gangs
  • Hostage survival
  • Report writing
  • Critical incident survival

Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office Correctional Officer Job Requirements

The Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office requires that corrections officers possess these minimum qualifications:

  • U.S. citizen
  • At least 21 years of age
  • Possess a high school diploma or equivalency
  • No felony or drug convictions
  • Must possess a Washington or Oregon driver’s license

New corrections officers must attend the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission Academy.  The Academy is a 160 hour, four week program that includes courses in

  • Assessment and testing
  • Mock scene testing
  • Defensive tactics
  • Corrections Communication
  • Legal issues
  • Conducting searches
  • Safety and security
  • Report writing
  • Intake processes
  • Professionalism and managing inmates
  • Firearms training

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