Can a Felon Become a Correctional Officer? Let’s find out below;
What is a correctional officer?
A correctional officer is a person who applies the rules and regulations in local jails, state prisons, and federal prisons. They attempt to ensure the safety and well-being of prisoners that are held within their prison facility. A correctional officer stops and subdues violent clashes, guarantees order to the best of their ability, and works to rehabilitate inmates with the support of the larger prison staff body.
They supervise prisoners during daily activities, such as meals, work, and recreation, to ensure the safety of said prisoners, their fellow employees, and any members of the public who may be in the vicinity. This is a difficult and demanding job that requires quick thinking, a cool head, and the ability to physically stand up to the challenge of having to deal with potentially violent outbursts.
What is necessary to become a correctional officer?
At the most basic level, there are a number of requirements necessary to become a correctional officer:
- The applicant must be a citizen
- The applicant must be at least 18 years of age (or 21 years old in some states)
- The applicant must have a high school diploma or GED
- The applicant must not have a felony conviction
- The applicant must not have more than minor misdemeanors in some states
- The applicant must have a valid driver’s license
- The applicant must be physically capable of doing the job
- The applicant must be eligible to carry a concealed weapon in some states
From this early stage, we can see that a felon will not be able to become a correctional officer – not only must they have no felony convictions against their name, but they must also be able to carry a concealed weapon. A felon without special permission or a pardon cannot carry a weapon at all.
It is also expected that correctional officers have these key skills to aid them in their day-to-day tasks:
- Critical thinking to solve problems quickly
- Ability to maintain discipline in stressful situations
- Good communication and interpersonal skills in dealing with correctional officers and inmates alike
- Good judgment under pressure to make the right decisions for the best results
- Negotiation skills and the appropriate calmness to avoid conflicts and / or find conflict resolutions
- Physical strength to subdue or contain those who are in crisis
These are all desirable qualities and, if an individual has a criminal background which does not show them as being capable of showing these qualities (e.g. a history of violent crime, which would imply that they do not have the ability to deal with stressful situations in a proper manner), they are unlikely to succeed in finding employment in this field.
The background check to become a correctional officer
Additionally, a number of checks are run against the system when applying to become a correctional officer. These include, but are not limited to:
- Fingerprint testing for identification
- Reference check
- Drug test
- Credit report
- Criminal background check
These are all important areas to consider when thinking about applying – you will not be able to escape your criminal past if you have a felony on your record as you have to undergo a fingerprint test and a criminal background check. Remember, failing to declare that you have criminal offenses on your record is itself a criminal offense as fraud and you could be looking at the possibility of reincarceration.
An appropriate education for a correctional officer
Many correctional jobs prefer a candidate with a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of penal or related work experience, such as serving in the army or other armed forces. Work requirements may vary by city or state, but basic requirements must be fulfilled.
Typically, once an applicant is offered a position of potential employment in the correctional system, they must pass and pass an exam to be admitted to a correctional officer training program which covers a great range of issues and procedures which must be followed in order to maintain a safe environment to work in for officers and a safe environment for inmates too.
This academic barrier to becoming an officer is essential in order to ensure that an individual has the correct understanding of their role, their responsibilities, and their duties but also to ensure that any applicants also have the correct qualities for a committed and difficult professional environment.
Some of the topics that are essential for a correctional officer to cover and understand to a high level are the rights of those who have offended, safety in the community, firearms training, preventing violence, use of restraints, and first aid and CPR.
From these skills, you can see the kind of individual that would work in a correctional facility is responsible, capable, and able to react to situations that are potentially threatening. Think about your criminal record and what the misdemeanors you have on your record say about you – can you say that they show an individual who has all these qualities? Or can you say that you have become a different person since they were committed?
Can a Felon Become a Correctional Officer?
As has been shown, it is practically impossible to become a correctional officer with a felony conviction on your record. There is a possibility that for a low-level felony, you may be able to possibly find a position as an officer via expunging or sealing your record; this would involve seeking legal aid to help determine if enough time has passed since your conviction, how you re-integrated back into society when released from prison, and how you have attempted to improve yourself as an individual since that point, maybe that be through education, gainful employment, or any other means.
The main requirement is that the felon has shown that they have become a character of good moral character who is a valued member of society – although this is a vague specification, it is the one that you will be judged against. If you cannot prove that, you are unlikely to succeed in gaining expungement.
However, even if you can expunge your conviction from your criminal record, in some states like California this will not be enough; in the interest of finding individuals who are unlikely to cause physical harm or are otherwise mentally unstable, even expunged and sealed records may be accessed by the corrections department to consider.
This is important as you will have to consider whether the nature of your crime is one which would place your chances of finding employment in your home state in jeopardy – if the answer is yes, you could either find a state which has different, more generous and pro-convict legislation or considering finding a new potential career.
If you have a felony charge which you acquired from an underage offense, however, this will not be held against you unless you were tried as an adult. If this is the case, ignore the previous section.
Becoming a correctional officer with a misdemeanor
Gaining misdemeanors as an adult does not necessarily disqualify you from becoming an officer in a prison, but it may make applying and gaining employment more difficult. Depending on the types of crime committed, you may be automatically barred from entering the profession – examples of this are crimes that involve drug or domestic violence charges.
A single drug-related charge may not stop your chances of becoming an officer, but repeated offences will. Other crimes may not bar you from the profession, however; collecting speeding or parking tickets does not generally stop you from finding a job in a prison, unless they are multiple offenses that do not show an intention to reform by the offending party.
Again, if these are more serious convictions, such as a DUI or a DWI, you are less likely to be considered for the position (again, especially if there is a history of repeat offenses which do not show the willingness to reform).
In conclusion, attempting to find employment as a felon in correctional facilities is especially unlikely – at very best, you can have your record expunged or sealed, but even then that might not be enough in some states. Proper and thorough research as well as honesty in your application process is of utmost importance, especially if you still have a felony conviction on your record.
If you have misdemeanors, depending on the charges, you may still be able to pursue a career as an officer in a prison; again, research is necessary for the local recruitment policies and how they match against your history. Remember, however, that you may be up against those who do not have convictions and as such be a less desirable candidate on those grounds.
Although it is illegal to discriminate on those grounds, it would be naive to deny that it happens today. If you are set on becoming a correctional officer, make sure that you apply yourself to the learning process and have the skills that are necessary to succeed in this area.
Robert Gomez was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. He currently lives in Northern California with “the wifey,” “the kids,” “the dog,” and “that cat,” 🙁 He is also a former journalist who has interviewed murderers on death row. Felonyfriendlyjobs.org was born to help ex-felons get a second chance in life.