What Does it Mean to Study Criminal Justice Corrections?
Students who earn a college degree in corrections and begin a career in this important field bear the responsibility of overseeing the criminal population and ensuring the safety of local citizens. The law enforcement and corrections field may seem intimidating at first, due to the regimented lifestyle and high level of accountability. There are many benefits, however, to working in law enforcement.
Types of Criminal Justice Corrections Degrees
A criminal justice degree program in corrections usually focuses on counseling and rehabilitation of offenders, probation, parole, community corrections, and juvenile services. Corrections professionals have the opportunity to make a strong and lasting impact on those they oversee. They have the opportunity to confront dangerous situations and improve lives. It's not a responsibility to be taken lightly, which is part of the reason why obtaining the proper education is so important.
Close collaboration between teachers and students in this major is strongly encouraged. Students are also expected to gain experience through internships and job-shadowing programs. Internship experiences can help with networking during the job search after graduation. Some graduates of corrections degree programs work as correctional officers, correctional counselors, and community and court probation officers. Others have opted to specialize in sexual abuse response and child protection services.
What You'll Learn in a Corrections Degree Program
After graduating from a college degree program in corrections, students should understand the daily operations and functions of the criminal justice system, as well as constitutional processes and applicable law. They should have the ability to recognize and analyze sociological factors that may increase the likelihood of crime. They should also understand how prisons and rehab facilities function -- their hierarchies, regulations and communications systems.
Online Degrees in Corrections
The flexibility of online degree programs makes education available to many students who already have jobs or families to support. By enrolling an online college degree program in corrections, students are able to control their own study and class schedules, and are not forced to relocate to a physical college campus. The convenience of online education is especially important in the field of corrections because many high-security facilities are located in isolated and rural areas, far away from traditional universities and community colleges.
Other College Degrees in Corrections
The requirements needed to embark on a career in law enforcement are as multi-faceted as the industry itself. Those interested in a career in federal corrections need to have a bachelor's degree in the field. A master's degree in criminal justice is also very helpful for future advancement. Interested candidates must be under the age of 37 because the mandatory retirement age is 57. By obtaining "Rule 24 Certification," a student may receive preferred consideration when entering the workforce. This certification program covers in-depth information about chemical dependency and is available online. In addition, corrections departments often hire individuals to complete Pre-Sentence Investigation Reports, an experience that would help any graduate during his or her search for a job. Volunteer experience in your particular area of interest is always a good addition to a resume.
What Can You Do With a Criminal Justice Corrections Degree?
As the population of inmates rises, opportunities for correctional officers are expected to grow. Positions for correctional officers are also created as new corrections facilities are built and existing facilities are expanded. The development of physical facilities depends largely on the budgets of state and local governments.
The regular responsibility of a corrections officer is to monitor people who have been arrested and are waiting for trial, or who have been convicted and sentenced. The corrections officer's job is to keep facilities secure. He or she must take measures to prevent violence and inmate escapes. The authority enjoyed by a corrections officer exists only within the institution or facility in which he or she works and must not be exercised outside of the workplace.
Corrections officers are sometimes known as detention officers and are employed in the police or sheriff's departments in county jails. It is common for corrections officers to find employment in this segment of the industry because about 75% of all jails are under the jurisdiction of a sheriff and are run by county government.
The inmate population of a jail is in constant flux. Prisoners are continually being released or transferred to prison, and new prisoners are constantly being brought in. Corrections officers who work in jails across the United States admit more than 11 million new offenders or potential offenders each year. The admittance process is the most dangerous part of the job, when recently arrested individuals are in danger of becoming violent.
Corrections officers in the United States collectively monitor the revolving population of the one million or so incarcerated people who continuously reside in jails and prisons. Though both kinds of facilities have dangerous elements, prisons are generally more stable environments than jails. Some corrections officers find employment with the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, monitoring individuals who are waiting to be released or deported. Some are employed in correctional institutions that are operated by private organizations.
The job of a corrections officer can be dangerous and difficult. Corrections officers must handle the possibility of having a confrontation with an inmate that could be potentially harmful. Some corrections facilities are well maintained, clean, well lighted, and ventilated. Other correction facilities, however, are overcrowded, hot, and in disrepair. Because security must always be present in corrections institutions, the schedule maintained by a corrections officer can be tiring. Officers must often work full days five days a week and frequently have to work overtime hours, overnight shifts, and on weekends and holidays.
Corrections professionals are the front line of contact for the inmates under their supervision. A regular workday for a typical corrections professional could include the following:
- Monitoring work activities and assignments for prison inmates
- Inspecting cells and other areas for cleanliness
- Searching inmates and cells for illegal items such as weapons and drugs
- Inspecting locks, doors and other points of entry for signs of tampering
- Screening visitors and mail for prohibited items
- Serving meals and distributing hygienic items to prisoners
- Escorting prisoners to places within the facility and outside locations such as courtrooms and medical facilities
- Reporting on the work quality of inmates. Reports may be written or oral
- Communicating rules to inmates in a clear, civil, but forceful manner
- Using handcuffs, pepper spray, and other deterrents as needed in proper and safe manner
- Interacting with inmates that are often confrontational and angry
- Cooperating and communicating with co-workers
- Convincing inmates to follow all regulations
- Being constantly on guard and aware of inmate behavior that could have serious physical consequences
- Working eight-hour days, weekends, and holidays
- Being highly agile and able to move quickly in physically demanding situations
- Seeking out and encouraging support from superiors and co-workers