Pros and Cons: Becoming a Jailer
Jailers, also known as correctional officers, watch over people who have been sentenced to jail time, arrested for a crime or are awaiting trial. Take a look at some additional pros and cons to working as a jailer below.
|PROS: Becoming a Jailer|
|Excellent benefits if employed by the government*|
|Career options in the private sector if you don't want to work for the government*|
|Job training is normally provided to new jailers*|
|Advancement options to administrative and supervisory openings*|
|CONS: Becoming a Jailer|
|Physical confrontation with inmates can result in injuries*|
|You can be exposed to contagious diseases from inmates*|
|Stress can occur from the constant need to be alert and ready*|
|Shifts can require you to work evening, holiday, weekend and night hours*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The rules of a jail are enforced by the jailer. You are in charge of stopping any security breaches involving escapes, assaults and other disturbances. You oversee the activities of prisoners on a day-to-day schedule. Part of your duties is to search cells and prisoners for any contraband. If a prisoner is being disruptive, you can issue a sanction. The level of the offense determines the type of sanction a prisoner receives, but eventually prisoners who are disruptive have privileges taken away.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in May 2014 reported that jailers made $21 an hour on average, which resulted in a yearly salary of around $44,000 (www.bls.gov). The top ten percentile of wage estimates for jailers was about $72,000 annually. The federal executive branch paid jailers the highest on average with earnings of $53,000 or so in a year. Rhode Island, New York, California, New Jersey and Massachusetts were the states that had the highest average incomes for jailers.
What Are the Requirements to Become a Jailer?
Training and Education
You need to acquire a high school diploma or a GED if you want to become a jailer. In certain circumstances, some employers are specifically looking for jailers with post-secondary education. If you're planning to work in a federal prison, then you'll want a bachelor's degree in a major like criminal justice. Law enforcement and military experience are seen as beneficial as well by many employers.
The American Correctional Association (ACA) sets the training guidelines to become a jailer. After being hired, you have to complete a training program at an academy. Afterwards, you'll receive on-the-job training at a corrections facility under the guidance of an experienced professional. During your training, you learn about the operations, policies, regulations and security procedures of that correctional facility.
What Do Employers Want?
In order to become a jailer, you have to meet several criteria all employers want to see. First, there is a minimum age requirement of 18 to 21 years of age depending on where you live. Employers want applicants to have no felony convictions. You also need to complete a drug test and a polygraph test before most employers are willing to hire you. Some of the other requirements real employers were looking for in jailers during April 2012 can be read below.
- A deputy jailer position in Kentucky calls for applicants to be available for all work shift assignments.
- In Ohio, a correctional officer job is open to people with a valid driver's license.
- An Iowa sheriff's office is looking for a correctional officer who has basic computer skills.
- A correctional officer opening in Florida is available to those of you who can demonstrate that you have the ability to complete the training process.
How Do You Stand out?
Professional certification from an organization like the ACA or the American Jail Association (AJA) is an excellent way to set you apart from other jailers. The ACA offers a Corrections Certification Program. After studying on your own, you'll complete a proctored, four-hour examination. The organization offers adult corrections certification for a corrections manager, corrections supervisor, corrections executive and corrections officer. These same categories are available if you are interested in juvenile justice. There are also nursing and security threat certifications.
The AJA offers a Certified Jail Officer program. After you've been employed for at least two years as a jailer and agree to follow the American Jail Association Code of Ethics, you'll be allowed to apply to this program. After passing the certification exam, you'll need to re-certify every four years. Certification is a great way to demonstrate your commitment and professionalism as a jailer.
Other Career Choices
If you're interested in trying to help rehabilitate offenders into productive members of society, look into becoming a probation officer. In this role, you'll work with offenders who have been placed on probation. You help come up with a plan for them like finding employment and establishing a residency. Another crucial part of the job is to check up on someone to ensure that the person isn't committing any criminal activities. A probation officer makes roughly $52,000 on average annually, according to the BLS in May 2011.
If you want to stop criminals instead of keeping them guarded, consider a career as a police patrol officer. You'll normally be assigned a specific area to patrol and keep an eye on activities. If you catch any crimes being committed, you intervene. You might receive a call from dispatch alerting you to a crime in progress. In this situation, you'll need to respond and check to make sure everything is okay. In May 2011, the BLS found that police patrol officers had average annual incomes of about $56,000.