Prison Officer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

A Prison Officer, or Correctional Officer is a uniformed law enforcement professional responsible for the custody, care and welfare of prisoners. Their primary duties include keeping prisoners safe, carrying out security checks and search procedures and assessing prisoners.


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Prison Officer duties and responsibilities

The Prison Officer is the first person to interact with a prisoner at a prison facility, when they first arrive. They make sure prisoners settle down and do what is expected of them in jail or prison. They conduct security rounds, searches and prisoner counts. Other common duties and responsibilities of a Prison Officer include:

  • Preventing disturbances, assault and breakouts by supervising activities and work assignments of prisoners
  • Supervising, managing and controlling prisoners lawfully, safely and securely
  • Escorting prisoners on external visits, such as to the hospital or court
  • Being aware of a prisoner’s rights and dignity
  • Performing security checks and search procedures on prisoners, staff and visitors
  • Promoting anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies
  • Inspecting facilities to ensure they meet security and safety standards
  • Working with prisoners to help them prepare for release


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What does a Prison Officer do?

Prison Officers are responsible for supervising, training and reforming individuals who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment. They oversee the daily activities of prisoners, enforce rules and regulations and maintain security. They are also in charge of some of the administrative aspects of the correctional facility they work in, including creating reports and maintaining records. 

A Prison Officer also directs prisoners and food service employees to maintain personal hygiene and sanitary standards. Other than performing custodial duties, Prison Officers motivate prisoners to do what’s best for themselves and those around them. 


Prison Officer skills and qualifications

A Prison Officer must be able to assert authority in a non-discriminatory manner. They should also be excellent observers and remain calm in stressful situations while treating prisoners with respect and humanity. A successful Prison Officer candidate will have various prerequisite skills and qualifications that typically include:

  • In-depth knowledge of public safety and security
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including self-motivation and assertiveness
  • Excellent communication skills and people skills
  • Effective problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Personal integrity and resilience
  • Empathy and cultural awareness
  • Meet the moral standards required, including a criminal record check
  • In-depth knowledge of common laws, institutional rules and custody guidelines


Prison Officer experience requirements

While no direct experience is required to work as a Prison Officer, a candidate may have an advantage if they have experience working in the police or armed forces department. Employers can also consider Probation Officers or Security Officers who have worked in organisations that support ex-offenders.


Prison Officer education and training requirements

A Prison Officer generally needs at least a GCSE to start working. Candidates don’t need a university degree and employers usually place more importance on the candidate’s personal qualities and work experience. However, candidates need to pass several medical and fitness tests and numeracy assessments. Once hired, they complete Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT). This comprehensive training programme aims to develop the officer’s interpersonal skills and ability to work with prisoners. It teaches them control and restraint techniques as well as searches and security procedures. 


Prison Officer salary expectations

According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary of a Prison Officer in the United Kingdom is  £22,572 per year. This salary varies depending on several factors, including the geographical location, experience and employer.


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Prison Officer job description FAQs


What should you look for in a Prison Officer's CV?

Check for prior experience working in a similar role, excellent communication skills and knowledge of correctional facilities. The Prison Officer’s CV must also portray excellent judgment, physical strength and the ability to respond to emergency situations quickly and appropriately.


Who does a Prison Officer report to?

Most Prison Officers report to Prison Governors. Those who work in private or contracted-out prisons report to a Prison Director. 


What qualities make a good Prison Officer?

Emotional stability is a crucial quality in a Prison Officer. An individual with this trait is able to handle stressful situations, control their impulses and defuse volatile situations. Other important qualities include great observational skills, impartiality and self-discipline.


What is the difference between a Police Officer and a Prison Officer?

A Police Officer patrols the streets to maintain law and order, responds to emergencies and arrests people breaking the law. They also gather and analyse evidence and testify in courts. A Prison Officer patrols jails, prisons and courtrooms, keeps order and supervises the activities of prisoners. Unlike the Police, a Prison Officer helps counsel prisoners and rehabilitate them.

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