Corrections officers have multidimensional roles in facility operations. Regardless of their assignment, be it to oversee general population inmates or to supervise inmates on death row, a correctional officer is required to perform tasks that simultaneously ensure peace and order in the facility, and provide dignified and safe living conditions.
Inmate Intake, Supervision and Release
Some of the basic duties of corrections officers concern the documentation of inmates, from the day they are escorted to the facility until the day of release or transfer to another court-mandated institution.
Inmate Intake- The booking of inmates begins with admission and reception procedures, which include checking personal records and creating a file that documents each inmate’s stay in the facility. Admission and reception involves checking inmates’ state of health, documenting and appropriately storing personal belongings, and classifying inmates according to their security risk.
Inmate Supervision- First among the many activities that fall under the category of supervision is conducting inmate counts, which occurs several times a day to ensure that all inmates are accounted for. It also involves monitoring activity within and outside of the cells, and disciplining inmates for violations of rules and regulations.
Supervision also involves checking whether or not inmates are performing their mandated tasks, such as kitchen and laundry duties, and alerting members of the correctional healthcare team if an inmate is in need of medical attention. Submitting incident reports, and filing periodic reports that will be used to evaluate inmate progress is also a primary component of a correctional officers supervisory role. Other responsibilities include: providing inmates impartial and sound advice on corrections procedures, reinforcing positive outcomes of good behavior and guiding inmates on proper conduct during drills and simulations pertaining to emergency situations.
Inmate Release- When inmates have served their sentence, or if they are ordered by the courts to leave the facility permanently, corrections officers assigned to them are expected to review files, prepare release paperwork, and file necessary reports.
During the process of release, the departing inmate’s behavior and health conditions are documented, and all stored personal belongings are returned. The documentation of this process accompanies the inmate’s permanent correctional records, and the final evaluation may be included in the release orders.
Patrols, Inspections and Searches of the Person
Corrections officers observe a set of protocols and routinely perform tasks toward the maintenance of peace and order within the facility. Failure to do so could result in irreversible consequences that impact an entire community, and endanger innocent lives.
Patrols- The aim of patrols is to detect suspicious activity within the premises and in its immediate surroundings. The frequency of patrols are not disclosed to inmates, to prevent these from designing plans to escape or engage in violence. Minimum-security or low-risk facilities do not require corrections officers on patrol to be armed.
Inspections- The aim of inspections is to keep facility conditions secure, safe, peaceful, healthy, and orderly. In order to achieve this, corrections officers conduct routine checks on the inmates’ living quarter and activity areas, structures and equipment, visitor belongings and personal effects, and inbound and outbound deliveries.
Being typically designated to housing units, corrections officers are responsible for, among others, checking the facilities for broken locks and light bulbs, corroded bars and fixtures, unserviceable equipment and other facility installations. The scope of their responsibilities extend to inspecting mail matter, which could be a vehicle for illegal substances and dangerous material.
Searches of the Person- As with inspections, the aim of searches of person is to maintain secure and safe facility conditions. This is by conducting legally permissible checks, to see whether or not subject individuals are carrying items that may be detrimental to the security and safety of facility personnel, inmates, and other people. There are four types of searches of the person:
Especially in strip searches and body-cavity searches, the presence of multiple corrections officers and/or higher-authority endorsements is required. This is to ensure that the corrections officers do not abuse their authority, and that they are not liable for any offense that may be lodged against them.
REMEMBER- Searches of the person not only apply to inmates, but to personnel and visitors as well. The applicability is guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment, but the procedures need to be within the prescribed guidelines. Seizing contraband articles and hazardous material, and submitting individuals involved to legal procedures, may be necessary, although this has to be done within the prescribed guidelines as well.