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Job Outlook: -7% (Decline)

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What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do About this section

Inmate and correctional officer in jail cell
Correctional officers must follow procedures to maintain their personal safety as well as the safety of the inmates they oversee.

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms. Their duties, which vary by court, include enforcing courtroom rules, assisting judges, guarding juries, delivering court documents, and providing general security for courthouses.

Duties

Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of inmates
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Search inmates for contraband items
  • Report on inmate conduct
  • Escort and transport inmates

Bailiffs typically do the following:

  • Ensure the security of the courtroom
  • Enforce courtroom rules
  • Follow court procedures
  • Escort judges, jurors, witnesses, and prisoners
  • Handle evidence and court documents

Inside the prison or jail, correctional officers enforce rules and regulations. They maintain security by preventing disturbances, assaults, and escapes, and by inspecting facilities. They check cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, signs of a security breach (such as tampering with window bars and doors), and other rule violations. Officers also inspect mail and visitors for prohibited items. They write reports and fill out daily logs detailing inmate behavior and anything else of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain inmates in handcuffs and leg irons to escort them safely to and from cells and to see authorized visitors. Officers also escort prisoners to courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Bailiffs’ specific duties vary by court, but their primary duty is to maintain order and security in courts of law. They enforce courtroom procedures that protect the integrity of the legal process. For example, they ensure that attorneys and witnesses do not influence juries outside of the courtroom, and they also may isolate juries from the public in some circumstances. As a neutral party, they may handle evidence during court hearings to ensure that only permitted evidence is displayed.

Work Environment About this section

Correctional officers
Because jail and prison security must be provided 24 hours a day, officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays.

Bailiffs held about 20,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:

Local government, excluding education and hospitals 72%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 27

Correctional officers and jailers held about 442,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 53%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 37
Facilities support services 5
Federal government 4

Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors, and bailiffs generally work in courtrooms. They both may be required to stand for long periods.

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers may become injured in confrontations with inmates, and they have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

The job demands that officers be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift.

Work Schedules

Correctional officers usually work full time on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff About this section

Correctional officers
Correctional officers typically attend training at an academy before being assigned to a facility.

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically attend a training academy. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma. Federal agencies may also require some college education or previous work experience.

Many agencies establish a minimum age for correctional officers, which is typically between 18 and 21 years of age.

Education

Correctional officers and bailiffs must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

For employment in federal prisons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have at least a bachelor’s degree or 1 to 3 years of full-time experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision to individuals.

Training

Correctional officers and bailiffs complete training at an academy. Training typically lasts several months, but this varies by state. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training maintains links to states’ Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) programs. Academy trainees receive instruction in a number of subjects, including self-defense, institutional policies, regulations, operations, and security procedures.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must use both their training and common sense to quickly determine the best course of action and to take the necessary steps to achieve a desired outcome.

Detail oriented. Correctional officers and bailiffs follow and enforce strict procedures in correctional facilities and courts to ensure everyone’s safety.

Interpersonal skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to interact and communicate effectively with inmates and others to maintain order in correctional facilities and courtrooms.

Negotiating skills. Correctional officers must be able to assist others in resolving differences in order to avoid conflict.

Physical strength. Correctional officers and bailiffs must have the strength to physically subdue inmates or others.

Self-discipline. Correctional officers must control their emotions when confronted with hostile situations.

Pay About this section

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Median annual wages, May 2019

Law enforcement workers

$57,030

Bailiffs

$47,830

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

$45,300

Correctional officers and jailers

$45,180

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for bailiffs was $47,830 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,900.

The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $45,180 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,740, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,090.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for bailiffs in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals $69,130
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 42,610

In May 2019, the median annual wages for correctional officers and jailers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $58,020
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 46,020
State government, excluding education and hospitals 44,090
Facilities support services 39,410

Correctional officers usually work full time on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

Job Outlook About this section

Correctional Officers and Bailiffs

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Law enforcement workers

0%

Bailiffs

0%

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

-7%

Correctional officers and jailers

-7%

 

Employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. State and local budget constraints and prison population levels will determine how many correctional officers are necessary.

Although correctional officers will continue to be needed to watch over the U.S. prison population, changes to criminal laws can have a large effect on how many people are arrested and incarcerated each year.

Faced with high costs for keeping people in prison, many state governments have moved toward laws requiring shorter prison terms and alternatives to prison. While keeping the public safe, community-based programs designed to rehabilitate prisoners and limit their risk of repeated offenses may also reduce prisoner counts.

Bailiffs will continue to be needed to keep order in courtrooms.

Job Prospects

Despite the projected decline in employment, job prospects should still be good due to the need to replace correctional officers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment projections data for correctional officers and bailiffs, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Bailiffs, correctional officers, and jailers

33-3010 462,300 429,200 -7 -33,100 Get data

Bailiffs

33-3011 20,300 20,300 0 -100 Get data

Correctional officers and jailers

33-3012 442,000 408,900 -7 -33,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), visit

International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training

For more information about career opportunities for correctional officers at the federal level, visit

Federal Bureau of Prisons

For more information about federal government requirements for correctional officers, visit

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

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Bailiffs

Correctional Officers and Jailers

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