Pros and Cons of Working in a Prison

by Kristine Tucker

Correctional officers, probation officers and administrative staff interact daily with prison inmates. Some advantages to working in a prison are job security and opportunities for advancement. However, working in this environment is also know for being a stressful job, especially when inmates refuse to follow regulations. Correctional officers typically supervise inmate transfers, search prison cells for contraband, supervise recreational activities and oversee visitation hours.

Civic Duty

One advantage to working in a prison is the respect you gain because you're fulfilling a civic duty. Your job helps ensure community residents that they can come and go as they please, without fearing that convicted lawbreakers are roaming the streets. Correctional and probation officers help maintain order by monitoring prisoners, so that offenders pay for their crimes and get rehabilitation assistance, according to their sentences. Your ability to enforce prison regulations and aid in the rehabilitation of inmates, along with searching prisoners for drugs and weapons and overseeing daily operations, is a huge act of community service.

Job Security and Benefits

Another advantage to working in a prison system is the job security. Nearly all regions need correctional officers, probation officers and prison staff to ensure the safety and security of their communities. Most public prison workers join powerful unions that negotiate salary contracts, fight for acceptable working conditions and protect workers from exploitation. Many prison workers receive allowances to purchase uniforms and qualify for state-issued retirement benefits. You can also rise through the ranks the longer you stay. Further, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that correctional officers have a higher median annual wage than the average for all occupations. In 2012, correctional officers' median annual salary was $38,970, while the median pay for all workers was $34,750.

Safety Issues

A disadvantage to working in a prison is the security risk. Inmates might hide weapons they've made or confiscated, putting officers and staff in potential danger. Prison staff can get injured when they transport, escort or search inmates who exhibit violent behavior and aren't easily subdued. Correctional officers, probation officers and staff also have to keep an eye out for inmates who may try to harm themselves.

Schedules and Conditions

Working in a prison isn't always a 9 to 5 job. Prisons require service and supervision 24-7, so some officers and administrative staff must work midnight shifts, weekends and holidays. Working conditions during such schedules often include both indoor and outdoor supervision, despite inclement weather conditions. Indoor prison facilities are often overcrowded, stuffy and congested, so officers and staff might experience exhaustion. Plus, prison employees must deal with excessive noise levels, especially when inmates are confined to their cells.

About the Author

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.

Photo Credits

  • Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images