Correctional Officer Skills: (Definition And Examples)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 13 June 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Correctional officers oversee inmates in correctional facilities like prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centres. They require a mix of physical skills and mental abilities to handle prisoners and convicts. Understanding the unique skill set required for this role can help you focus on developing these skills and impress the recruiter with your knowledge and preparation. In this article, we define correctional officer skills, share some examples, discuss how to develop these skills and elaborate on how you can highlight these skills during the job application process.
What Are Correctional Officer Skills?
Correctional officer skills are a unique set of physical skills and mental abilities that help correctional officers enforce rules and regulations in prisons and other correctional facilities. These skills help correctional officers maintain the security and safety of inmates and other colleagues and help them carry out their job responsibilities efficiently. While correctional officers receive physical training before joining the role, developing additional soft skills can help them resolve conflicts and maintain law and order inside the prison.
Examples Of Important Skills For A Correctional Officer
Here are a few key skills and abilities that help you carry out your responsibilities efficiently and advance in your career:
Being a correctional officer is a physically demanding role, as you are responsible for restraining physically violent inmates and restoring order in the facility. Being physically fit helps you handle the physical requirements of the job and maintain control over inmates. Several correctional officers learn physical combats like karate, judo, or other martial arts to help them exert their authority. Develop your stamina to avoid feeling exhausted, as the role involves plenty of walking and standing during your shift hours.
Conflict resolution and negotiation skills
Conflict resolution is an integral part of a correctional officer's role. Resolving conflicts smoothly can help you maintain law and order and ensure the safety of inmates. Negotiation is the ability to show empathy and compassion for all the parties and arrive at a peaceful solution while enforcing discipline and rules. Good negotiation skills help you resolve conflicts smoothly and avoid major troubles at the facility.
Attention to detail and observational skills can help correctional officers be aware of everything that happens in the jail or juvenile facility. Being alert and aware of their surroundings helps them identify security breaches and spot contraband, strange behaviours and other illegal activities within the premises. Strong observational skills help officers identify and report any illegal activity to their supervisors before it becomes a major issue. Early intervention helps in ensuring the safety of inmates and other colleagues.
A good correctional officer avoids favouritism and handles all inmates neutrally. Irrespective of which inmate commits a rule violation, the officer reports all incidents to superiors with impartiality, ensuring the right disciplinary action against the rule breaker. Sometimes these officers work with external law enforcement officers and cooperate with them during investigations. Being impartial helps you complete your duty efficiently, with no complaints against you.
Mental agility and responsiveness
Correctional officers often encounter unexpected and dangerous situations. They usually have only a couple of seconds to react. Sharp mental agility can help them think quickly in life-threatening situations. Being responsive helps officers think and act quickly, keeping everyone safe and de-escalating the situation. Being self-disciplined and calm in stressful situations helps you avoid overreacting and resolve the issue quickly.
Maintaining law and order in a prison or juvenile home comes with its unique challenges, and correctional officers can make mistakes occasionally. Being resilient gives you the strength to handle difficult situations and adapt to challenges while coming up with creative ways to overcome them. For example, if arguments and physical violence break out between inmates, it is the correctional officer's responsibility to put an end to the violence and learn from the experience and take the right steps to prevent such incidents in the future.
Self-discipline and stress-management skills
Avoiding emotions at work helps correctional officers focus on their duties and respond to situations logically rather than emotionally. They require the self-discipline to avoid getting entangled in inmate conflicts. The role of a correctional officer is extremely stressful and strong stress-management skills help you de-stress and react positively and calmly during intense situations. Regular yoga practice, meditation or other stress-reducing physical activities helps correctional officers focus on their mental health and avoid getting overwhelmed.
Decisiveness and problem-solving skills
A correctional officer handles various responsibilities and challenges as part of the role. Presence of mind, quick thinking and decisiveness help them assess situations, analyse the available information, evaluate the pros and cons of different approaches and determine the right course of action. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills help officers evaluate all the factors involved and find a solution that benefits all stakeholders.
Correctional officers usually work as a team or in pairs during their shifts. The ability to work together and support your colleagues can help you complete your duties efficiently and ensure the safety of all inmates and colleagues. Teamwork and collaboration also give you the confidence to tackle dangerous inmates with the support of your team. Managing the stress of the role becomes easy when you have a supportive team.
Adaptability and dedication
Correctional officers require an adaptable mindset that helps them to adapt to new challenges and changes at the correctional facility. Being open to new perspectives and new methods of doing things can help you avoid stereotypes from affecting your work. Dedicated officers gain the trust of their colleagues and earn respect from inmates. Being dedicated helps you keep the facility operating smoothly, with no mishaps. Correctional officers who put the interests of their teammates and inmates first earn the recognition of supervisors.
Strong communication skills help correctional officers build rapport with colleagues and inmates. Using a confident and authoritative tone helps you gain the attention and respect of inmates. The ability to give concise instructions and commands helps you avoid misunderstandings. Active listening is another crucial communication skill that helps you perceive the concerns of inmates and take the right remedial action.
Ways To Improve Correctional Officer Skills
Correctional officers can follow these steps to improve their skills and increase their work efficiency:
Perform physical activities. Exercising regularly helps you develop the required physical strength and stamina to become a correctional officer. Weight training helps you build muscles, and doing cardio activities helps you improve your stamina and overall physical fitness levels.
Practise communication skills. Learning the basics of body language can help you understand the non-verbal cues of inmates. Asking relevant questions and maintaining eye contact can help you become a better communicator and earn the respect of inmates and colleagues.
Gain relevant experience in safety and security. If you are interested in a career as a correctional officer, you can gain relevant practical experience by working as a security guard at private companies. This helps you build the required skills like monitoring suspicious activities and ensuring the safety of the public.
Develop team skills. Many correctional officer responsibilities require collaborative teamwork. Practising team-building exercises can help you develop the right skills to work collaboratively as a team.
Learn to be assertive. Working in a correctional facility requires you to be assertive and firm in your decisions. Learning how to make confident decisions helps you earn the respect of your colleagues and inmates.
Ways To Highlight Correctional Officer Skills
Learning how to highlight the correct skills on your resume and during an interview can help you impress recruiters and secure the role. Here are a few ways to show your skills during the hiring process:
On the resume and cover letter
Read the job description carefully to identify the required skills. Make a list of all your skills that are relevant to the role, and include the ones that you consider most important for the job. You can highlight these skills in the objective or professional summary section of your resume. You can also include a separate skills section on the resume, making it easy for the hiring manager to recognise your skill sets. Here are a few examples of skills to include on the resume and cover letter:
During the job interview
Once you pass the physical tests and written examinations, you are likely to have an interview with the recruiting officers. Demonstrating key skills like physical fitness, confidence, active listening and clear communication can help you impress the recruiting team and secure the job. You can also share examples of how you used decision-making, negotiation and problem-solving skills to overcome challenges in your previous jobs.
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