Introduction to Corrections
Corrections If you're interested in a career in Corrections, there's a wide variety of the types of opportunities available. This generally means working as a correctional officer in a jail or prison, or as a probation or parole officer. You should know that Corrections and Private Security are really the fastest growing career opportunities, not policing. In addition to being a correctional officer, there are career opportunities in supervising offenders once they are released, such as probation or parole officers.

In most criminal justice studies, you learn about the differences between jails and prisons. In most cases jails hold people only very temporarily, such as those awaiting trial, for arraignments, preliminary hearings, pending bail or if bail is refused, to remain in custody until their trial. In misdemeanor cases, they may be used for sentencing up to one year, or awaiting transfer to state prison. Cities and counties usually will have custodial facilities, (jails and detention facilities) as well juvenile holding facilities, such as "Camps" or "Juvenile Hall." Generally, state facilities handle only those who have been convicted of felonies, and who are sentenced to serve one year or more in a state prison. State prisons also conduct executions.

Career paths

There are essentially four career paths for Corrections:
  1. Juvenile Corrections/Probation officer
  2. Municipal or County Jails/Correctional Officer or County Probation Officer
  3. State Prisons/Correctional Officer or Parole Agent
  4. Federal Prisons
A 5th could be "Private" corrections firms that are generally contracted to oversee a facility.

Note that in both State and local corrections, there are careers in either counseling or parole (State) and probation (local counties). There are also differences in Adult and Juvenile corrections, and both offer excellent opportunities for employment.

There is a great deal of information now available on the web as well, and note the difference between the entry level requirements compared to local (city or county) jail facilities and State (California) entry level requirements. Also, you should know that you can also apply online for many state and federal positions.

Local detention opportunities

In addition to federal and state job opportunities, there are also several positions in local counties that also offer career paths in corrections. For example, there are 58 counties in California, and each of them has a Sheriff's Department and a jail!

More information

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is responsible for Federal prisons.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is responsible for maintaining efficient and cohesive correctional policy among its divisions and ensuring compliance with the law and executive directives. The Secretary of the Department is a member of the Governor's Cabinet and advises the Governor on correctional matters.

Download a sample test from the State of California.

Job Descriptions

The following job descriptions have been culled from various corrections facilities in California to give you an idea of what is required for various jobs.

Sample: County Sheriff's Correctional Opportunities
The Deputy Sheriff Cadet-Detentions/Court Services class is utilized only for Sheriff personnel participating in the Department's Deputy Sheriff-Detentions/Court Services Academy. This class is distinguished from the Deputy Sheriff-Detentions/Court Services class in that the Deputy Sheriff Cadet-Detentions/Court Services is not an on-duty peace officer and is not responsible for maintaining security at a detention or court facility.

(a) Minimum age is 18 years old. There is no maximum age limit.
(b) Possession of a U.S. high school diploma or GED certificate.
(c) Applicants must have no felony convictions and must not be on probation; misdemeanor convictions may be disqualifying depending on number, type and recency.
(d) Valid pictured I.D. such as military, driver's license, state, or other photo identification issued by a regulatory agency.
(e) Must be a U.S. Citizen, or Resident Alien in the process of becoming a U.S. Citizen.

NOTE: In regard to the age requirement listed under (a) above, if you are over 20-1/2 years of age at the time of application, you will meet the age requirement for Deputy Sheriff Cadet (law enforcement).

(a) Successful completion of the background investigation process
(b) Effective oral and written communication skills in English.
(c) Vision: 20/100 uncorrected; correctable to at least 20/30; or soft contact lenses correctable to 20/30 (subject to State of California P.O.S.T. requirements).

A few samples from San Diego Sheriff's Department: and the County of San Diego Department of Human Resources

California State Correctional Officers
To apply for the California State Correctional Officer (CO) examination, you must:
  • Have no felony convictions.
  • Be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident alien who is eligible for and has applied for U.S. citizenship prior to the completion of the background investigation.
  • Be a graduate from a U.S. high school or have a GED or higher level degree.
  • Have a history of law abiding behavior - this is critical when applying for a peace officer position such as CO.
For more information, see:

Community Service Officer
To perform non sworn police duties related to the booking, searching, monitoring, transportation of prisoners, investigations, crime prevention, reporting, property/evidence, traffic and maintenance of equipment and firearms.

Supervision Received and Exercised

Receives general supervision from Senior Jailer, Jail Supervisor, management or supervisory personnel. May provide lead in the absence of Senior Jailer.

Essential Duties - May vary depending on assignment.
  1. Performs duties in jail related to adult booking.
  2. Performs duties related to juvenile booking.
  3. Receives Prisoners and performs appropriate search to recover personal property or Contraband.
  4. Conduct detailed property inventory, documents and makes appropriate storage or Pickup.
  5. Performs appropriate fingerprint procedure and transmits for confirmation of identification.
  6. Performs medical screening and prisoner classification.
  7. Conducts warrant checks, makes confirmation with appropriate agency and updates PIN and related systems through computer and teletype.
  8. Collects Information and completes Alameda County consolidated arrest reports.
  9. Maintains jail security, observes prisoners in detention and prepares documentation of behavior.
  10. Performs prisoners exit processing, issues receipts for bail, completes computer processing and prepares appropriate documentation for release.
  11. Transports prisoners to court or other jail facilities.
  12. Drives bus in the transporting prisoners.
  13. Responds to public inquire either in person or by telephone.
  14. Independently responds and type letters and general correspondence related to assigned area.
  15. Testifies in court.
  16. Monitors vehicles use and service schedule and ensure appropriate servicing or repairs are performed.
  17. Prepares, processes and stores or picks up and/or equipment from storage area for appropriated disposition.
  18. Directs traffic.
  19. Enforces parking regulations and writes traffic citations.
  20. Use police radio and computer system.
  21. Writes police reports.
  22. Prepares documentation and makes arrangements for the towing and impoundment of vehicles.
  23. Organizes and facilitates neighborhood watch and business groups meetings.
  24. Provides home and commercial security surveys.
  25. Performs minor maintenance safety checks, cleaning and schedules repairs of department issued firearms.
  26. Performs maintenance and cleaning of department issued safety equipment (i.e., body armors, gas masks, batons, etc).
  27. Performs other related non-sworn police duties and responsibilities as required.
Job Related and Essential Qualifications

Knowledge of:
  • - English usage and grammar.
  • - Safe work practices.
Ability to:
  • - Learn polices and procedures of assigned area of responsibility.
  • - Learn basic self-defense.
  • - Ability to type accurately at a rate of 25 net word per minute.
  • - Prepare paperwork and reports related to area of assignment.
  • - Communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and writing.
  • - Establish and maintain effective working relationship with those contacted in the course of work.
  • - Perform assigned duties with little supervision.
Experience and Training

Any combination of experience and training that would likely provide the required knowledge and abilities is qualifying. A typical way to obtain the knowledge and abilities would be:
    Experience - One year of experience involving high public contact, preferably in law enforcement.


    Two years of college education, in a related field of law enforcement.

    Training - equivalent to the completion of the twelfth grade.
Special Requirements: Age, not less than 18 years at time of appointment. (Section 6035, Penal Code)

License or Certificate - Possession of, or ability to obtain, a valid California drivers license. Ability to successfully complete the State of California, Board of Correction's Correctional Officer Core course within one year of date of appointment.

Source: City of Hawyard, California

Probation Officer I
Positions in this series perform investigations and make recommendations to the court relative to juvenile and adult cases; assist and supervise juvenile and adult probationers in meeting the conditions and goals of probation; and perform related duties as required.

Either I
Completion of two years of study (60 semester units or 90 quarter units) at an accredited college or university. A minimum of ten acceptable college or university-level courses which may be expected to provide knowledge and skills required for this position is listed below. These courses must be equal to or greater than 30 semester units or 45 quarter units.

Most acceptable college coursework:
2 courses in cultural anthropology, ethnic studies or similar courses
2 courses in criminology
2 courses in English (designed to improve writing skills)
2 courses in psychology
2 courses in sociology


The equivalent of one year full-time experience working with people in a detention, recreation, rehabilitation, or related probation program.

Possession of a valid California Motor Vehicle Operator's license is required. A good driving record according to DMV negligent operator guidelines and qualifications for automotive insurance is also required

Detention Services Officer
Position Information: Supervises the activities of juveniles who are detained in one of the three juvenile halls located in Los Angeles, Sylmar and Downey. Incumbents serve as a member of a small team responsible for the order and security of a unit of juveniles, provides situational counseling as necessary, and transports Juveniles to medical care facilities, courts or other locations. Detention Services Officers must be able to physically restrain combative juveniles.

Essential Job Functions: Supervises detained juveniles in their activities within the unit, on work assignments, during recreation periods, on medical or dental appointments, or awaiting court appearances. Maintains order and control of a unit and takes appropriate action in connection with rule infractions or other disturbances. Maintains institutional security and takes appropriate action to prevent escapes. Supervises the movement of juveniles within and outside the facility. Controls and restrains combative or emotionally disturbed juveniles. Provides situational counseling to assist individual juveniles through their daily routines. Observes and records the behavior of juveniles and confers with the supervisor about problem juveniles.

Selection Requirements: Completion of 60 semester or 90 quarter units from an accredited* college including course work in the behavioral or social sciences such as: psychology, sociology or criminology. THE FOLLOWING REQUIREMENTS RELATING TO PEACE OFFICER STATUS MUST BE MET AT THE TIME OF FILING:

- U.S. Citizenship
- 21 years of age, at the time of filing

Appointees will be required to meet State-mandated CORE training requirements as defined by standards for training in Corrections.

Physical Class: 4 - Arduous:
Involves frequent heavy lifting over 25 pounds, often combined with bending, twisting, or working on irregular surfaces; and occasionally requires extraordinary physical activity.

Licenses: A valid California Class "C" Driver License is required.

Special Requirement Information: All applicants for this position will be required to obtain a copy of his/her driving record from the California State Department of Motor Vehicles before being appointed. A copy of the driving record must be presented at the time of your appointment. License must not be suspended, restricted, or revoked. AN APPLICANT WHOSE DRIVING RECORD SHOWS VEHICLE CODE VIOLATIONS WHICH TOTAL MORE THAN FOUR IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS WILL NOT BE APPOINTED.

Applicants must attach proof (original or photocopy) of official college transcripts with Registrar's signature and/or school seal to the application at the time of filing.

*Accredited institutions are those listed in the publications of regional, national or international accreditation agencies, which are accepted by the Department of Human Resources. Publications such as American Universities and Colleges and International Handbook of Universities are acceptable references. Also acceptable, if appropriate are degrees that have been evaluated and deemed to be equivalent to degrees from United States accredited instructions by an academic credential evaluation agency recognized by The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services and Association of International Credential Evaluators, Inc.

Special Information: Appointees will be required to work any shift including evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.

**AN EXTENSIVE CRIMINAL RECORDS CHECK WILL BE CONDUCTED TO ENSURE NO FELONY CONVICTIONS. A thorough background investigation, including live scan and drug screening will be conducted prior to appointment.

You need not list an arrest and/or conviction when the record of such an incident has been sealed in accordance with Penal Code Section 1203.45, 851.7 or 851.8; nor do you need to list an arrest and/or conviction if your record has been expunged or is eligible for expungement pursuant to Health and Safety Code Section 11361.5. However, you must list the arrest and/or conviction if you have received a release (per Section 1203.4 or 1203.4a of the Penal Code or Welfare and Institutions Code Section 1179 or 1172), or a pardon per Section 4852.16 of the Penal Code.

A special certification from this examination may be made based on language proficiency needs of the department. If you speak, read or write spanish, it is to your advantage to respond to item 9 of the application. Applicants must pass the Bilingual Proficiency Test which covers conversational skills and cultural sensitivity.

Study guides and other test preparation resources are available to help candidates prepare for the written Juvenile Corrections Officer Test on the Probation website at under Candidate Orientation Booklet.


Examination Content: This examination will consist of a qualifying written examination (Juvenile Corrections Officer Test) developed and validated by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) and an interview covering training, experience, and personal fitness to perform the duties of the position weighted 100%.

Candidate must achieve a passing score of 70% or higher on interview in order to be added to the eligible register.

The written test is not reviewable by candidates per Civil Service Rule 7.19.

Eligibility Information: The names of candidates receiving a passing grade of 70% or higher in this examination will be placed on the eligible register in the order of their score group for a period of twelve (12) months, following the date of promulgation, AND MAY NOT REAPPLY DURING THIS PERIOD.

RETAKE: No person may compete for this examination more than once every six (6) months (applicable to all exam components).

Disability Accomodations: Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: All positions are open to qualified men and women. Pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, persons with disabilities who believe they need reasonable accommodation, or help in order to apply for a position, may contact the ADA coordinator at (562) 940-3552.

Contact the Coordinator of Personnel Services for Disabled Persons by calling (562) 940-3552. Hearing impaired applicants with telephone teletype equipment may leave messages by calling (877) 988-7800 or (800) 897-0077. The County will attempt to meet reasonable accommodation requests whenever possible.

An Equal Opportunity Employer: It is the policy of the County of Los Angeles to provide equal employment opportunity for all qualified persons, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, age, sexual orientation, or disability.

Child Support Compliance: In an effort to improve compliance with court-ordered child, family and spousal support obligations, certain employment and identification information (i.e., name, address, Social Security number and date of hire) is regularly reported to the State Directory of New Hires which may assist in locating persons who owe these obligations. Family Code Section 17512 permits under certain circumstances for additional employment and identifying information to be requested. Applicants will not be disqualified from employment based on this information.

Veteran's Credit: VETERANS' PREFERENCE CREDIT of 10 points will be added to the final passing grade in any open competitive examination if you are an honorably discharged veteran who served in the Armed Forces of the United States:

- During a declared war; or
- During the period April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955; or
- For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976; or
- In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or expeditionary medal has been authorized and awarded.

This also applies to the spouse of such person who, while engaged in such service was wounded, disabled or crippled and thereby permanently prevented from engaging in any remunerative occupation, and also to the widow or widower of any such person who died or was killed while in such service. A DD214, Certificate of Discharge or Separation from Active Duty, or other official documents issued by the branch of service are required as verification of eligibility for Veterans' preference. If you are unable to provide any documentation at the time of filing, the 10 points will be withheld until such time as it is provided.

Employment Eligibility Information: Final appointment is contingent upon verification of U.S. citizenship or the right to work in the United States. Immigration law provides that all persons hired after November 6, 1986, are required to present original documents to the County, within three (3) business days of hiring, which show satisfactory proof of: 1) identity and 2) U.S. employment eligibility.

Record of Convictions: A full disclosure of all convictions is required. Failure to disclose convictions will result in disqualification. Not all convictions constitute an automatic bar to employment. Factors such as your age at the time of the offense(s), and the recency of offense(s) will be taken into account, as well as the relationship between the offense(s) and the job(s) for which you apply. However, any applicant for County employment who has been convicted of workers' compensation fraud is automatically barred from employment with the County of Los Angeles (County Code Section 5.12.110). ANY CONVICTIONS OR COURT RECORDS WHICH ARE EXEMPTED BY A VALID COURT ORDER DO NOT HAVE TO BE INCLUDED.

Social Security Act of 2004: Section 419 (c) of Public Law 108-203, the Social Security Protection Act of 2004, requires State and local government employers to disclose the effect of the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset Provision to employees hired on or after January 1, 2005, in jobs not covered by Social Security. The County of Los Angeles does not participate in the Social Security System. All newly hired County of Los Angeles employees must sign a statement (Form SSA-1945) prior to the start of employment indicating that they are aware of a possible reduction in their future Social Security benefit entitlement. For more information on Social Security and about each provision, you may visit the website, or call toll free 1-800-772-1213. Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may call the TTY number 1-800-325-0778 or contact a local Social Security office.

Juvenile Hall Counselor I
Under close supervision, provides for the care, custody and discipline of juveniles; helps to ensure and sustain a safe and secure environment for juveniles; coordinates counseling and behavior modification activities associated with the operation of Juvenile Hall.

Education, Experience, Certifications and Licenses:
  • High School diploma or equivalent GED certificate.
  • One (1) year of experience involving the supervision, care, and leadership of juvenile groups of adolescent youth, outside of the home.
  • (60) Units earned for course work completed through a college or university accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or from an institution authorized to award degrees pursuant to Section 94900 of the California Education Code may be substituted for the required experience.
  • Must obtain and maintain a valid California 832 Peace Officer Certificate within one (1) year.
  • Must pass a stringent background investigation including fingerprinting, records checks, a written and oral psychological exam, and medical evaluation.
  • Must possess State of California Driver's license.

Correctional Deputy Probation Officer I
Essential Functions:
  • Maintains security and control within a detention or correctional facility.
  • Supervises meals, recreation, sick call, work assignments and work project activities.
  • Escorts wards within the detention facility.
  • Screens all items going in and out of the facilities.
  • Maintains records and files.
  • Counsels detainees.
  • Assesses treatment issues.
  • Writes incident reports.
  • Computes and records duration of confinement and release dates.
  • Provides orientation to new detainees.
  • Conducts searches and explains rules and regulations.
  • Sounds and/or responds to alarms.
  • Provides information to other law enforcement agencies and the courts.
  • Conducts security checks.
  • Coordinates the transportation of inmates/wards for activities which require them to leave the facility.
  • Provides responsive, high quality service to County employees, representatives of outside agencies and members of the public by providing accurate, complete and up-to-date information, in a courteous, efficient and timely manner.
  • A high school diploma, GED, or equivalent.
Positions in this classification are Peace Officers as defined in Section 830 of the California Penal Code, and must meet employment guidelines and standards established by the Commission for Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), the provisions of Sections 1029 and 1031 of the California Government Code, and STC Selection and Training Standards as contained in Title 15, Section 100-358, California Code of Regulations. Applicants must be 21 years of age by the time of appointment, and must be a U.S. citizen or in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. This position may require carrying a weapon and meeting certification requirements.

Correctional Technician
  • Monitors safety and security of the staff, inmates, visitors and facility; processes and monitors visitors; reports security violations.
  • Participates in booking and identifying new inmates; verifies information on booking forms; obtains signatures; oversees telephone usage; obtains photographs; processes property and money for safekeeping; types information on standard forms and inputs data into computer system.
  • Checks local and state warrants, and collects and distributes related paperwork.
  • Monitors court calendars; schedules court appearances and enters data into computer system.
  • Updates automated and manual inmate records and tracking systems.
  • Receives and sends information to and from other agencies and jurisdictions.
  • Observes and assesses the behavior of visitors and inmates from a control room; operates intercom and electronic door controls in routine and emergency conditions.
  • Receives money and accounts for inmate trust accounts; processes bail bonds.
  • Monitors and assigns inmates on work alternative program; checks for compliance to performance standards and agreements, reports noncompliance and violations.
  • Utilizes a computer software system to input, access, retrieve, and input data.
  • Operates county vehicle for errands, pickups, deliveries, and monitors and controls behavior of individuals assigned to work alternative programs.

Probation Recovery Specialist
  • Analyzes and inputs data of court-ordered fines and fees for adult, juvenile, diversion and summary restitutions cases; insures proper distribution to general ledger accounts; maintains numerous financial records related to collection activities.
  • Interviews defendants; determines and makes recommendations regarding the ability of the defendants to reimburse the County.
  • Assists debtor in establishing a payment plan; explains possible consequences for non-compliance of a court order.
  • Monitors summary restitution cases for delinquency of financial obligations; refers cases to the courts when delinquent.
  • Meets with court referrals, defendants on probation, victims, and parents of juveniles on probation; explains fees, fines and payment options; explains how redistribution of victim restitution occurs.
Education and Experience:
High School diploma or GED; and,
Two to three years of related experience; or,
Any combination of education, training and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the essential functions of the job.

Licenses and Certifications:

  • Maintains security in Superior Court and enforces the regulations of the courts; preserves order among spectators and participants in court proceedings.
  • Responds to request from the judges of commissioners for assistance.
  • Takes charge of jurors during their deliberations to insure that legal procedures and regulations are accurately carried out; answers inquiries from jury members, general public, attorneys, and participants in such matters as court procedures, customs, and regulations.
  • Takes defendants into custody; arranges for transportation for the court and jury to scenes in question.
Education: Graduation from high school, attainment of a satisfactory score on a G.E.D. test, or possession of a Certificate of Proficiency issued by the State Board of Education.

Federal Correctional Officer
Correctional Officers are the largest part of the workforce. All BOP institutions routinely have vacancies for this position. Correctional Officers enforce the regulations governing the operation of a correctional institution, serving as both a supervisor and counselor of inmates.

Qualifications: To qualify for a Correctional Officer at the GS-05 grade level, you must have successfully completed at least one of the following:

A full 4-year course of study in any field leading to a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited school or possession of a Bachelor's Degree; or the equivalent of at least 3 years of full-time general experience performing duties such as providing assistance, guidance, and direction to individuals; counseling individuals; responding to emergency situations; supervising or managing; teaching or instructing individuals; or selling products or services (persuasive commissioned sales). Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs): Candidates must demonstrate they have the following KSAs to successfully perform their job as a Correctional Officer: (1) ability to supervise others, (2) ability to communicate verbally, and (3) ability to react in crisis situations.