Correctional officers fill a critical role in society as the supervisors of inmates in jails, prisons and other correctional facilities. Typical duties for correctional officers include monitoring inmates, enforcing rules and inspecting visitors. Serving your community as a correctional officer is a demanding opportunity that requires the right mindset. If you’re considering a career as a correctional officer, cultivating certain personality traits can help you succeed.
1. Ability to Interact with People
Individuals who have trouble interacting with hundreds of people every day may struggle as a correctional officer. The majority of your duties revolve around interacting with people and supervising their actions. You may sometimes work with computers to track supplies and file reports, but most of your workday involves monitoring the behavior of the inmates. Correctional officers must also be good team players to work effectively with other members of the prison staff.
2. Awareness and Observation
Correctional officers spend much of their day watching inmates for suspicious or illegal behavior, including contraband trafficking. You’ll also need to monitor inmates for potential aggressive behavior so that you can prevent a fight. Careful observation requires patience and the ability to remain focused while monitoring seemingly routine interactions. You’ll also need good observational skills while inspecting cells to detect hidden contraband. With practice, you should also be able to notice when an inmate is acting out of the ordinary; unusual behavior is a common precursor of trouble.
To keep the prison running smoothly, correctional officers must avoid forming attachments and playing favorites among the inmates. Allowing certain inmates to escape punishment for breaking prison rules can spark accusations of favoritism. Failure to remain objective could result in confrontations among the inmates and potentially the loss of your job. Good observational skills play into this trait; if you carefully monitor and report all suspicious behavior, regardless of who was responsible, the prison will run more efficiently.
4. Calm under Stress
Working as a correctional officer can sometimes be stressful; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and dread each day of work. However, breaking under stress can lead to bad decisions with potentially life-threatening consequences. Although everyone has different tolerances for stress, it’s important to work on maintaining a cool head while under pressure. Some officers handle stress by practicing simple relaxation methods while on the job, such as quick meditation or calm breathing. Others focus on burning off excess stress after work so that they can approach each day with a clean slate.
5. Ability to Handle Confrontations
As a correctional officer, you’ll be responsible for interacting with challenging people all day, including those who are prone to violence and angry outbursts. Although you can’t allow yourself to be intimidated by confrontation, allowing an argument with an inmate to escalate beyond shouting could put you and others at risk of injury. Correctional officers must be able to maintain control in difficult situations. Talking someone down is often the best course of action, but in other situations, you may need to physically restrain the inmate to prevent further escalation. Keeping your cool and exercising patience is the best way to avoid losing control of the situation.
Prison facilities require the dedicated work of correctional officers to maintain order and efficiency. Working as a correctional officer is often a fulfilling job, but developing some key personality traits can help make the job a smoother experience for you.