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A correctional officer is also called a detention officer when they work in the pretrial detention facilities and has the responsibility of overseeing individuals that have been arrested and are awaiting trial (Camenson, 2005). Correctional officers may also oversee individuals that have been convicted of a crime(s) and sentenced to serve a jail term which can be reformatory or penitentiary.
According to Reisig, Cole and Clear (2011), Correctional officers have the mandate of maintaining law and order and enforcing rules and regulations within the correction facilities. They maintain security and inmate accountability to prevent disturbances, escapes and assaults. They however do not posses the powers and responsibility to enforce law outside the institutions where they work. Although when prisoners are admitted into correctional facilities they are taken through the rules of the prison to which they are housed, the correctional officer goes at great length to ensure that the rules are followed to the letter.
Challenges and Dangers of Being a Correctional Officer
The judicial system states that a correctional officer must show respect to the prisoners with whom he/she works without prejudices or preferences, remaining professional at all times (Dale and Josi, 1998). The officer must not use force in dealing with an inmate in the prison cells since this amounts to the violation of an inmates rights. The officers however like any other state security officers have been trained on when to exert force on a rowdy inmate without being considered as having infringed the right s of the inmate. I feel it is complicated for a correctional officer to work in an environment where the government policies do not support work ethics and do not provide clear marked boundaries within which an officer should operate. Where the inmates do not comply with expectations and the rules are not clear, the officer finds him/herself at the centre of controversy thereby putting his/her job at risk.
During the time when plastic razor blades were provided for hygiene purposes, the inmates used them as a tool to hurt officers during feeding times. The officers are daily exposed to such dangers. Prisoners who are serving long term imprisonment or even life imprisonment are most times inconsiderate to the officers and even fellow inmates. In my view, working with inmates who have not reformed in enclosures like cells for eight hours is itself a danger to the officer (Reisig, Cole and Clear, 2011).
Daily Schedule of a Correctional Officer
In Reisig, Cole and Clear (2011), a Correctional Officer’s day starts early and ends late. Sometimes the working hours may be longer than stipulated, amounting to paid overtime. The day involves the supervision and monitoring of work assignments given to inmates. The officers may sometimes inspect the facilities used by inmates like the cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, fire hazards and any evidences of trial to bend the laws. They search inmates and their living areas/quarters for weapons and drugs as well as solve disputes between inmates even as they enforce discipline. Additionally, the officers routinely check window bars, locks, doors, grilles and gates if tampering has occurred. They also inspect mails and visitors for prison prohibited items.
When in the Close Management Unit the officers are expected to check on the inmates every fifteen minutes. I feel this is laborious on the officer’s part since the officer takes care of many inmates at a time. Given that the inmates at the Close Management Unit do not have a problem just with others but also with themselves, it helps a great deal if the prisons department would employ more correctional officers to reduce the fatigue of having to check on suicidal inmates each after every fifteen minutes (Camenson, 2005). There have been cases reported where different categories of inmates have been mixed into one facility such as having a Psyche Dorm within a Close Management Unit. The Psyche Dorm houses inmates with psychological incapacitation. Mixing them with normal hard core criminals in my view is overworking f the Correction Officer in charge. Working for long hours with fellows who have to be followed after to do things right requires that the officer goes at great length to protect the inmates without infringing into the rights of any.
Stresses of Correctional Officers
Working as a Correctional Officer display stresses that range from psychological, emotional even to physical stresses (occupational stress). The correctional officers have long hour days which in my view are a major contributor to physical fatigue. The correction facilities house criminals of the law which means the facilities are manned 24/7 (Camenson, 2005). An officer might be called back to duty incase of emergencies even after a long days work. It would help if the maximum number of hours an officer may work are clearly marked and adhered to.
Psychological stresses result from continual separation from friends and family owing to the long working hours. The officers spend most of their time with the inmates and colleagues within the same settings (Walters, 1992). Doing this job for a long time results in general isolation from the public and family. The insults hurled at the officers by the inmates more so the ones that serve fifteen or more years sentences and do not give a damn what their fellows and officers alike feel will over time affect the officers way of reasoning and looking at things.
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Physical stresses that have resulted from physical assault from prisoners or injury in line of duty have not been uncommon among correctional officers. Physical pains got inline of duty slowly but surely advance into emotional stresses (Camenson, 2005).
In conclusion, I feel more Correctional Officers should be hired for the ever swelling numbers of prisoners and the working hours revised for improved effectiveness of officers working in the prison facilities. Psychological therapies may also be provided for long serving officers to help release pent up anger and resolve uncertainties.