Prisons are part of the multibillion-dollar corrections industry in the United States, requiring thousands of people to operate the facilities across the country. While inmates do most of the physical labor in prison, paid employees from the free world are also needed to make sure things run as smoothly as possible.
All correctional facilities require a large number of staff, including administrators, counselors, doctors and nurses, and operations managers. They also need a large number of police officers to monitor the daily activities and movements of prisoners.
In the job market after the epidemic, prisons across the country are recruiting correctional officers on the spot and giving out bonuses. So, if you’re looking for work, applying to be a police officer at your local jail is probably the closest thing you can get to a guaranteed job. That is, if you qualify.
What qualifications do prisons look for in hiring officers? Can you be a prison guard with epilepsy?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- Prison Officer Job Description
- job requirements
- Can you be a prison guard if you have epilepsy?
Prison Officer Job Description
Prison officers in the U.S. start at a minimum of $18 an hour (depending on the state, according to salary data) plus benefits. The benefits package that comes with your job depends on whether you work for a state or federal agency. Another major factor involved in compensation is whether the prison is government-run or private.
Benefit packages typically include health insurance (medical, dental, and vision), life insurance, long-term disability insurance, cafeteria food plans, paid vacation, sick leave, PTO, retirement plans, training, and uniforms.
So what do you do when you’re a prison guard? The expectation at most facilities is that an officer will help maintain the security of buildings, towers and other posts. They intervene during emergencies and altercations, and gain physical control over prisoners.
Officers also monitor the movement of prisoners inside and outside the prison, conducting extensive daily counts, searching prisoners and their residences for contraband, and escorting/transporting prisoners to predetermined locations.
Correctional officers supervise prisoners in their residences and work activities. Guards are also present during recreational, educational and religious functions.
Other day-to-day duties of officers include conducting health and safety inspections and preparing and filing reports of inmates violating facility rules, security breaches or other unusual behavior.
Officers should also discuss minor issues with prisoners while referring serious issues to administrators. They must also try to change prisoners’ behavior and attitudes by encouraging positive activity and discouraging bad decisions.
Prison guards also work in the visiting room. This means they will supervise the prisoner’s visits with family and friends. They must also search visitors, prisoners and visiting rooms for contraband.
You must be at least 18 years old to get a job as a prison officer, and you must be able to pass a background check. All candidates must be able to complete training in defensive tactics and standard first aid/CPR prior to assignment to a facility.
Depending on the position, you may also be required to complete and maintain your firearms certification and have a valid driver’s license.
Most correctional officer positions require a high school diploma or GED. Some states require completion of a training program and/or criminal justice degree. You may need several tests to determine your cognitive abilities.
Most correctional departments also have some type of physical ability and agility requirement for their officers. Applicants need to meet a certain level of physical fitness to qualify for the job.
The various tasks that a potential officer may be required to perform during a physical competency assessment are:
- push-ups and sit-ups –Usually as many as possible.
- Run/Walk Assessment –A certain time to complete a certain distance.
- climbing stairs –Ability to assess ascents and descents.
- Push/Pull Strength Assessment – Usually performed on dedicated machines.
- Weightlifting ability – involves lifting and carrying weight for a certain distance.
- Obstacle Race or Track Event – A test of the applicant’s overall fitness level.
According to Correction Officer Training, the criteria for these assessments are “usually broken down by gender and age group.”
In general, prison officer job requirements do vary by location, but these are general basics across the United States.
Can you be a prison guard with epilepsy?
Regarding today’s blog post question, “There is no federal law that prohibits people with epilepsy from working as firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, or other law enforcement officers (LEOs),” the Epilepsy Foundation stated.
There are actually federal civil rights laws and many state laws protecting the right to work in these industries. However, most private organizations do recommend that LEOs meet certain medical requirements as a prerequisite for employment.
These medical requirements do sometimes exclude people with epilepsy from serving as correctional officers, and they have been adopted by many institutions across the United States. Still, some argue that these types of policy packages violate federal and some state civil rights laws.
Under federal law, employers generally “cannot refuse to hire or fire, with or without reasonable accommodation, a person with a disability who is qualified to perform essential functions of the job because of a disability.”
There are two exceptions to this law. One is where the individual poses an “immediate threat” to the health or safety of self or others and the risk cannot be eliminated through reasonable accommodations. Another exception is where reasonable accommodation would impose an undue burden or cost on the employer.
If you have epilepsy and your seizures are controlled with medication, you may be eligible to work as a prison officer. The following is the experience of a former prison guard with epilepsy.
“I lived with epilepsy for most of my adult life and was on Dilantin 200mg a day for years. At 45 I decided to go to prison and be a corrections officer. They do quite a bit of background checks and Medical, I was admitted and went through seven weeks of correctional officer training for 16 and a half years as a correctional officer.
I did everything everyone else did. I have my own crew, sometimes I work with 20 prisoners, sometimes I work alone in the yard with 200 prisoners. If your seizures are well controlled, they should treat you no differently than anyone else. Tell everyone about your condition and whether the medicines your doctor has prescribed are working. “
Have you ever worked as a correctional officer with epilepsy? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: State / Local Law Enforcement and Firefighter Positions https://www.epilepsy.com/living-epilepsy/independent-living/employment/safety-sensitive-jobs/state-local-law-enforcement-and-firefighter-positions#:~:text=Living%20with%20Epilepsy,-Independent%20Living&text=Be%20sure%20to%20include%20your,enforcement%20officer%20(LEO)%20jobs. Working In The Law--Are you able to work as a security guard or police officer while being epileptic? What jobs can I do? Corrections Officer Job Description https://www.correctionalofficeredu.org/missouri/#:~:text=Applicants%20can%20qualify%20to%20become,year%2Dto%2Dyear%20basis. What are the physical ability requirements for a corrections officer?