Jails and detention centers range in size from five beds to several thousand beds. There are approximately 3,200 jails in the United States, employing more than 250,000 people. Organizational structures of jails vary based on whether they are entities of local, regional, state or federal governments. In terms of jails and detention facilities serving Indian Country, the justice system for many of the 566 federally recognized Native American Tribes and Alaskan Natives is a hybrid of tribal, local, state and federal involvement.
In addition to jail/detention officers, these facilities also may employ physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, teachers, maintenance technicians, librarians, food service workers, administrative support staff, counselors and more.
Juvenile justice professionals work in a variety of settings in local, regional, and state governments. Just as in the adult corrections system, juveniles may be held in a secure setting awaiting trial, and may be incarcerated serving a sentence imposed by a court, or held in a detention facility awaiting a probation/parole violation hearing. There are professional opportunities working with juveniles in “treatment” settings, focusing on providing services needed to help the juvenile return to their community. Professionals may work in short-term holding facilities (“detention facilities”), often for youth awaiting judicial action, or work in facilities for youth who have been adjudicated of a crime and have been sentenced to serve a sentence in a state juvenile correctional facility, residential facility, group home or foster care. The most recent data reports that as of February 2010 there were 79,165 youth held in 2,259 public and private facilities.2
Juveniles may be automatically prosecuted in adult court if the offense and age meet specific state statutory requirements. Also, many states have provisions for transfer of jurisdiction for youth to adult court. Laws vary considerably from state to state. Information regarding each state’s statute for automatic adult prosecution and transfer of jurisdiction to adult court can be found in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) Statistical Briefing Book.
The juvenile justice system often has purview over “offenses” which if committed by an adult would not be a crime. These offenses are referred to as status offenses. A status offense may be defined as conduct which would not be a crime under the law of the jurisdiction in which the offense was committed if committed by an adult.Status offenses include but are not limited to:
Information regarding status offenses in each state can be found in the OJJDP Statistical Briefing Book. However, most states refer to status offenders as "children in need of protection and services (CHIPS), or dependent or neglected children". Human service agencies assume responsibility for these youth.
Employment opportunities are vast and varied within jails and detention centers serving adults and juveniles. While not an exhaustive list, positions may include:
The same types of positions are available in Indian Country jails as in local jails. For those interested in health care services, the Indian Health Service (http://www.ihs.gov/) provides services to Tribal facilities, and job openings.
Outlined below are useful skills for jail/detention officers, corrections deputy sheriffs, and juvenile detention staff:
Most entry-level positions for detention officers do not require specific job knowledge, but many organizations prefer applicants be over the age of 21 and have:
Those who seek a career in the juvenile justice system should have an understanding of adolescent behavior and possess a strong desire to work with youth.
Applicants may also be required to pass a criminal history record check, take written, oral, polygraph, physical, psychological and medical examinations. Check job postings for specific information, as testing procedures vary by organization.
Below are general qualifications for jail detention officers, corrections deputies and juvenile justice employees; however, keep in mind that each jurisdiction will have its specific qualifications. The minimum qualifications for those seeking positions with the Federal Bureau of Prisons metropolitan pre-trial detention centers are similar to these requirements; however, additional qualifications may apply for federal positions. A list of qualifications related to jobs within the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Due to the physical nature and potential safety risks of the job, jail/detention officers and corrections deputies are typically in good physical and mental condition, possess standard (or correctable) vision, and have the ability to function effectively within a stressful environment. These factors may be assessed through entry-level tests that help determine an individual’s interpersonal skills, judgment/logical reasoning ability, physical agility and more. Candidates may also be asked to undergo additional assessments, including a pre-employment physical examination and a psychological examination. A drug screening prior to employment is required by most agencies.
These qualifications are provided only for general guidance; refer to job postings to determine specific requirements. Job announcements, and often online applications, background check forms and other required documentation are typically posted on the websites of jails/detention centers, sheriff departments and offices, county and city human resources offices, state departments of corrections, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
The qualifications for many positions in Indian Country jails are essentially the same as in county jails. Many tribal communities and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) use Indian preference in hiring. “Indian preference is a unique legal right that tribal members have that entitles them to first consideration at all employment, training, contracting, subcontracting, and business opportunities that exist on and in some cases near reservations.” Indian preference may apply to job openings, but this should not keep you for applying for a position that interests you. For positions working for Indian Affairs, log onto www.usajobs.gov.
Tribal facilities hire through their tribal human resources agencies/departments. See a list of federally recognized tribes. From this list you can connect to the website of the tribe in which you are interested, and learn more about their hiring needs and practices. Keep in mind that not all tribes have chosen to operate a facility.
Certain behaviors (past and present) may disqualify applicants from jobs within jails and detention centers. However, disqualifiers vary among agencies. For example, one agency may exclude a candidate for any felony arrest, while another may accept a felony arrest, as long as it is not for domestic violence, driving under the influence (DUI), violent behavior or a crime of moral turpitude.
Generally, the following MAY disqualify a candidate for a certified/sworn position:
Disqualifiers are typically revealed through a standard background check that includes criminal history and in some cases a polygraph examination. Background investigations may include one or more of the following:
Inquire about training opportunities when considering jobs, as the type of training provided to new and current jail and detention professionals varies by agency. Typically, training falls into one of three categories: pre-service, in-service, and specialized.
Many states require pre-service training for jail/detention officers, but there are no national standards or requirements. Most programs are designed to provide basic knowledge and skills and may include:
Most pre-service training is conducted in an academy setting. Jail/detention officers, corrections deputies, and juvenile detention staff usually spend a period of time as probationary employees before being designated as permanent, full-time employees. During the probationary period, officers receive on-the-job training from their supervisors and experienced peers.
In some states jail/detention officers, corrections deputies, and juvenile detention staff may be granted sworn officer status and permitted or required to carry a firearm. In these circumstances, officers participate in appropriate firearms and tactical training. Such training and firearms certification is typically completed within the first year of employment.
Most agencies require employees to engage in ongoing education and provide professional development opportunities, updates to agency policies and procedures and refresher courses. This training may be provided within the agency or through national or regional conferences, regional or state training academies, community colleges, or other institutions of higher education.
Officers assigned to work in specialized roles such as emergency response teams or with K-9s often receive additional training.
For tribal detention facilities operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, training takes places at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico – the United States Indian Police Academy (IPA). Training for tribal facilities is carried out based on the requirements of the tribe, and/or the state.
Detention/correction centers, commonly known as jails, are incarceration facilities used primarily to house adult inmates who usually have been sentenced to serve less than one year in jail or are held pending a trial, awaiting sentencing or awaiting transfer to other facilities. Jails provide for necessary daily health and welfare needs, and may offer other services, such as education, job training, substance abuse treatment, etc. Jails exist in all sizes and with varied operational structures within the local, state and federal systems.
A juvenile detention center temporarily incarcerates juveniles after they have been accused of committing a delinquent act, and the court orders the juvenile held in detention until their next scheduled court appearance (detention hearing), or are alleged to be in violation of their probation conditions. Juveniles are supervised by staff and are not allowed to leave without an escort. These centers are mandated to provide case management, treatment, recreational activities, education, and health services. Adolescents can be held for longer durations if they are being considered for transfer to the adult court.
There are approximately 718 juvenile detention centers in the United States . However, the juvenile justice system provides a continuum of juvenile justice facilities ranging from group homes, shelters, residential treatment centers, training schools, ranch/wilderness camps, and reception/diagnostics centers. Additional juvenile justice information can be found in the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) Statistical Briefing Book found at http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/structure_process/faqs.asp
Due to confidentiality laws visitors are restricted and monitored closely. In many situations only parents and/or legal guardians are allowed to visit. This having been said, a juvenile’s family can be an important source of tangible and emotional support. Additional information is found in The Impact of Family Visitation on Incarcerated Youth’s Behavior and School Performance and is available at http://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/publications/the-impact-of-family-visit...
Yes, by law, adolescents must attend school each weekday while held in detention. Programs must be responsive to the developmental, physical, social, psychological/emotional, educational requirements including services for students with special needs, and family needs that are unique to adolescents. The school setting is held within a detention center.
Most states amended their criminal codes to allow youth charged with certain serious crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, armed robbery, rape and in some states certain property offenses to be sentenced as adults and to have jurisdiction waived (terminology varies from state to state – some call the process a certification, bind-over, remand or transfer) to adult court. Some of the factors considered for waiver include seriousness of the offense, the juvenile’s prior delinquent history, the eligibility of the minor under state statute for waiver to adult court, past rehabilitation efforts that have proven unsuccessful in the juvenile system, and services under the juvenile system that cannot be provided for the length of time needed. Additional information is available on the Office of Juvenile Justice and Juvenile Delinquency (OJJDP) website ( http://www.ojjdp.gov/ojstatbb/population/index.html ).
In 1974 Congress enacted the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act (Pub. L. No. 93–415, 42 U.S.C. § 5601 et seq.). This historical legislation established OJJDP [the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention] and provided the underpinnings to improve local and state juvenile justice systems and juvenile delinquency prevention efforts. On November 2, 2002, Congress reauthorized the JJDP Act. In order to receive funding from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency (OJJDP’s) formula Grants Program states must demonstrate a commitment to achieve and maintain compliance with the 4 tenants of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (JJDP) Act.Deinstitutionalization of status offenders: Status offenders may not be held in secure detention or confinement. There are limited exceptions to this requirement which include a provision that allows accused status offenders to be securely held in juvenile facilities for up to 24 hours before and after an initial court appearance, and it allows juveniles who commit a violation of a valid court order (VCO) to be detained in a juvenile detention facility. Sight and sound separations: sight and sound contact with adult inmates is prohibited when youth are detained or confined for any period of time. Removal of juveniles from adult jails and lockups: youth may not be detained in adult jails or lock-ups. Exceptions include juveniles who are being held for non-status offenses. They may be held for a period of 6 hours for processing or release and prior to or after court appearances. In rural areas juveniles may be held for up to 48 hours excluding weekends and holidays, or until weather conditions permit, prior to an initial court hearing. Reduction of disproportionate minority contact within the juvenile justice system: states are required to address the disproportionate contact of minority youth at critical contact points including arrest, detention, and incarceration in the juvenile justice system. The Disproportionate Minority Contact website is found at http://www.ojjdp.gov/dmc/. An overview of the JJDPA Core Requirements is provided in the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and information regarding states’ compliance with the core elements of the JJDP Act is found at Monitoring Facilities under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2002.
Most agencies require their officers/jailers to have a high school diploma or GED. Some agencies require additional coursework in corrections or a related field. Carefully review the minimum qualifications section of vacancy announcements to ensure that you meet specific requirements.
Most agencies prefer applicants have or develop knowledge, skills and abilities in the following areas.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, projects that employment of correctional officers is expected to grow 9 percent between 2008 and 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Rules across agencies regarding factors that may disqualify candidates for positions within a jail or detention center vary by agency. For example, one agency may disqualify a candidate for any felony, while another will accept felonies, as long as they are not domestic violence, DUI or a crime of moral turpitude. While you should check with individual agencies regarding their policies, the following are common dis-qualifiers:
According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, median annual wages of correctional officers and jailers in May 2012 were $39,040. The salaries for correctional officers varies throughout the nation with the highest 10 percent earning more than $66,610 and the lowest 10 percent earning less than $18,700. Higher wages tend to be found in urban areas.
Training requirements vary by agency. Some agencies have highly structured training curricula and internal training departments, while others have less structured programs with minimal classroom instruction. Almost all agencies have minimum training requirements during the first year with most ranging between 40 hours to 16 weeks.
For illustration purposes, following is an example of the training topics required by one state. In that particular state, new detention officers receive a total of 120 hours of orientation and basic officer classroom training during his/her first year of employment.
Agencies that are authorized to use firearms provide training via a basic weaponry course and require annual or more frequent accreditation testing.
The jail population changes constantly as some prisoners are released, some are convicted and transferred to prison, and new offenders are arrested and enter the system. Detention officers/jailers monitor inmate activities and work assignments to maintain security and inmate accountability and prevent disturbances, assaults and escapes. Detention/officers and jailers have no law enforcement responsibilities outside of the institution where they work. In jails utilizing supervision, an unarmed detention officer, equipped with a communications device, may work alone among 50 to 100 inmates. Officers enforce regulations primarily through interpersonal communication skills and the use of progressive sanctions, such as the removal of privileges. Officers also escort prisoners between their institution and courtrooms, medical facilities and other destinations.
Some may carry weapons. Those who are authorized to use firearms will be trained in weaponry and subject to annual or more frequent accreditation testing.
Qualified officers with appropriate knowledge, skills, ability and training may advance to leadership or administrative positions such as sergeant, lieutenant, captain, etc. In some jurisdictions, jailers/detention officers may compete for a specialty assignment, such as working with special response teams. Promotion opportunities may be enhanced by earning a college degree.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, projects that employment of correctional officers is expected to grow five percent between 2012 and 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Private sector job opportunities are expected to be good as public agencies contract with private companies to provide and staff corrections facilities.