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What is a First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers?

First-line supervisors of correctional officers are responsible for overseeing the activities of inmates as well as staff in a variety of correctional centers, including but not limited to prisons, jails, juvenile detention centers, criminal justice facilities, and more.

A first-line supervisor of correctional officers is responsible for ensuring the safe and orderly operation of a facility and making sure that his or her subordinates do so within a set of established guidelines and procedures.  

Job Duties of a Corrections Supervisor

First-line supervisors of correctional officers work in facilities such as jails, detention centers, juvenile halls, and more, supervising the work of subordinate officers.  Supervisors also work with others, including subordinates as well as those above them such as corrections administrators and legislators to develop institutional policies and procedures that help create an environment that is safe, stable, and helps to accomplish the rehabilitation of inmates.  They are also often called upon to assign, train, motivate, evaluate, and discipline staff members that are under their supervision. 

Besides administrative tasks, first-line supervisors of correctional officers often perform and/or supervise record-keeping duties related to supporting staff duties, including, but not limited to inmate counts, report writing, and reviewing inmate records.

In emergency situations such as employee or inmate misconduct and injury, escapes attempted escapes, rioting or disturbances of any kind, a correctional officer supervisor will put together a coordinated and effective response to mitigate problems and restore order. This may include the confiscation of contraband items, the use of weapons to subdue unruly inmates, and contacting outside authorities for assistance. Correctional officer supervisors must also be prepared to:

*  Anticipate and prevent unruly behavior
*  Calm angry and aggressive inmates and employees
*  Communicate orders with deliberate authority
*  Assess the crisis level of the prison or jail environment

Salary of First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers

According to a May 2018 report issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the reported mean annual wages of first-line supervisors of correctional officers is $68,350 per year.

Career Outlook for First-Line Supervisors of Correctional Officers

According to the BLS, the employment opportunities for first-line supervisors of correctional officers are projected to grow as fast as the average from 2018-to 2028. Although higher incarceration rates may create a demand for corrections professionals, in many states sentencing mandates are being reevaluated to reduce overcrowding. However, a growing population, tighter parole regulations, and an increase in private contracting of prison services could lead to an increase in the number of job opportunities in this industry.

Education and Certification

Most first-line supervisors of correctional officers come to their positions after years of experience and training as lower-level correctional officers, with the additional training they receive on the job.  As they progress in their positions, they might have earned additional academic credits through special education programs or those designed to award degrees and other training awards.  In some cases, this training is provided by the institutions where they are employed.  These degrees include criminal justice administration, law enforcement administration, and others. 

At their lower levels, correctional officers have diplomas from high schools as well as colleges and universities.  Some correctional officers even earn advanced degrees with an intent to advance in their corrections career.  This is even true of those who advance to positions as first-line supervisors of correctional officers.  These few have degrees as advanced as master’s and doctorate levels.  In many cases, these degrees are in specialized areas such as public administration and other areas.  There are even specialized private colleges that offer programs for these professions.  

Advancement opportunities for first-line supervisors of correctional officers arise most often by obtaining additional specialized education and training, which will often allow them to rise or transfer to a higher position within their own system or another by lateral transfer. The American Jail Association (AJA) offers jail management training programs, including bulletins on management topics as well as videos for more advanced education.  Further, the AJA offers certification programs for aspiring Certified Jail Managers and other distinctions. This requires AJA membership, a minimum education completed, leadership experience, and the passing of a specialized exam.

The American Correctional Association (ACA) also produces a Corrections Certification Program at the basic, supervisory, management and executive levels for those who work in adult corrections as well as juvenile justice. Supervisory and management certification for security threat group corrections are also made available. The ACA also offers a variety of leadership and training programs for correctional officers and supervisors.

To become a correctional officer does not really require formal education; officers usually undergo on-the-job training after hiring, though some municipalities may require a training course or certification. In time, experienced officers can be promoted to positions such as first-line supervisors of correctional officers and higher.

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