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Can You be a Prison Officer With a Criminal Record?

Can You be a Prison Officer With a Criminal Record?

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a prison (corrections) officer? Are the requirements any different than those of the police on patrol? Do they vary by state?

Well, given that there are different types of prisons — federal, state, private — there are some differences in the exact requirements. But in general, the criteria are very similar no matter which correctional institution you apply to.

There are definitely differences between correctional officers and the police. Those who work in prisons are not sworn employees, nor do they enforce the law. Instead, they are usually civilian employees who enforce facility regulations.

Prison guards are not considered law enforcement or first responders, but their jobs are still dangerous and require a specific skill set.

What are the basic requirements to become a Corrections Officer? Can I be a prison guard with a criminal record? Read on for today’s blog post to find out.

This blog post will cover the following topics:

  • Basic requirements to become a prison guard
  • Felonies are usually deal breakers, but misdemeanors are usually fine

Basic requirements to become a prison guard

To become a prison officer of any state or federal agency (public or private), you must be at least 18 years old (19 in some states) and a US citizen. All applicants must also have a high school diploma or GED.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has higher education requirements for its officers.They require applicants to have a college degree or one to three years of similar work experience — such as supervision, counseling, or negotiating with individuals — to work as a federal corrections officer

Most states, as well as the BOP, require you to have a valid driver’s license, and they also want to make sure you can actually do the job.

“At some point in the hiring process, you’ll be required to undergo a medical exam and pass a physical fitness test. The exams are pretty standard by state,” explains

“The requirements are basically whether you are competent for the job or if you have pre-existing conditions that could be a problem. Health checks vary by state, and some states only accept results from a doctor’s exam.”

Some states have detailed pre-application screening procedures that require applicants to be tested before formally applying for the corrections officer position.

Some of these tests involve video simulations or real-life parenting situations. Others require literacy and English fluency tests. Some require applicants to qualify under state law to carry concealed weapons.

If you are considering a career in corrections, your best bet is to visit your county or state department of corrections website to review the requirements for that particular location.

exist prison insight, Every entry in our facility directory has a careers section where you can find links to apply and further information on each jail and prison.

Felonies are usually deal breakers, but misdemeanors are usually fine

Almost every state conducts background checks on applicants for prison officers, which include looking at criminal histories and credit reports. All applicants must have a “clean” criminal record, but what that means varies.

99 times out of 100, a felony conviction will end an applicant’s chances of being hired as a prison officer. The only exceptions appear to be when applicants receive pardons or their records are expunged.

Minority comes with misdemeanors. Some states will accept applicants for minor offenses as long as the sentence and/or probation period has expired and all fines and restitution have been paid. Others do not allow applicants with misdemeanor charges at all.

Misdemeanors that can cause trouble for prison officer applicants are those related to drugs, and those related to domestic violence.

Because the job of correctional officers is to oversee the inmates in a prison or jail, they need to be role models for obeying the law. They also need to be people who will not be tempted by money or other types of bribes.

Prison staff are one of the most common ways drugs and other contraband are brought into correctional facilities, so those who work there must be trustworthy and of good character.

Do you have experience as a correctional officer? What is the application process like? Do you have a criminal record? Let us know in the comments below.


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What will disqualify you from becoming a correctional officer?

BOP Correctional Officer