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The rewards of working as a correctional officer

Corrections can be a rewarding career. You will never stop learning and every day is different

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Occasionally, we hear grievances about the role of a correctional officer and complaints about management. This raises a question: If it’s as bad as suggested, why are you still here?

Personally, I stay because the positives outweigh the negatives. Yes, there are inherent risks in this line of work. Being a correctional officer is indeed challenging and not for everyone. However, working in this sector of the criminal justice system serves a dual purpose – it not only safeguards our society by acting as a barrier between criminals and citizens, a task honorable in its own right, but it also provides us, as individuals, an opportunity to mature and reassess our personal values. It fosters a sense of pride in the service we provide.

Why did you become a correctional officer?

Sometimes we need to stop, take a breath and reflect on why we became correctional officers. This helps us focus on the positive and recharge our reasons for doing this job.

Here are my positive reasons for being a correctional officer:

  • I want to fulfill my sense of duty to myself and my community.
  • I want the opportunity for growth within the correctional system.
  • I want a new challenge in life that can help people.
  • I am a team player who works well with others.
  • I want a job that offers many opportunities.
  • I want a secure job with benefits for me and my family.
  • I want to be involved in helping people make better choices in life.

No matter what your reason was for becoming a correctional officer remember why you signed on and took the oath of office: As a correctional officer, I regard myself as a member of an important honorable profession.” — The Correctional Officer Oath

The benefits and rewards outweigh the negatives

Let’s review some of the many benefits and rewards of being a correctional officer.


  • I have a steady job and job security.
  • I can provide for my family’s needs.
  • I have a retirement plan.
  • I can get a free college education.
  • I have promotional opportunities.
  • I have paid vacation, sick leave and life insurance.
  • I have high-risk retirement pay.
  • I have peace of mind for myself and family.


  • Being a team player with fellow officers and civilian prison staff builds personal growth and reduces stress.
  • Gives you the opportunity to help change a life for the better, whether for a fellow officer or an inmate.
  • A career pathway you can control with promotions, education and more. You can go as far as you wish.
  • The satisfaction of knowing you are protecting everyone behind the walls, as well as society.

Use your corrections career as an opportunity to make yourself more successful, as well as your agency and the people around you.

How a positive attitude builds job satisfaction and success

Maintaining a positive attitude in corrections will make you mentally and physically stronger. In corrections, we obviously see many bad things that most people will never see or in some cases even believe. This is why it is so important to stay mentally and physically fit to accomplish your goals as a correctional officer.

Here are some examples of how important a positive attitude can be:

  • Creates a more productive work environment.
  • Creates job satisfaction.
  • Helps you to perform at your best.
  • Helps your mental wellbeing.
  • Sets the example and spreads positive thinking to others.
  • Helps you go home to family with a healthy attitude.
  • A positive attitude stops negative thinking.
  • Greater resistance to illness.
  • Increases cardiovascular health.

The rewards of a positive attitude are countless. Your mindset controls your success at the workplace and at home.

A two-way street

The critical factor in reaching our ultimate goal of a pension or retirement plan is flexibility and adaptability. It’s crucial that front-line officers, middle management and upper management maintain open lines of communication. This not only benefits everyone but also ensures the success of our mission. Transparent and honest dialogue enhances collaboration and bridges the gaps between all levels, eliminating any disconnect.

When everyone grasps the larger picture and comprehends the roles that the front line, middle management and upper management play, we can cultivate a collective of winners. Consider this an internal cross-training for success. By shadowing and learning from each other, we reinforce our team, all working toward the same objectives and mission.

Corrections can be a rewarding career. You will never stop learning and every day is different. If you like a good challenge join our team.

NEXT: Why corrections is not just a stepping stone

Gary York, author of “Corruption Behind Bars” and “Inside The Inner Circle,” served in the United States Army from 1978 to 1987 and was honorably discharged at the rank of Staff Sergeant from the Military Police Corps. U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Gary York completed the 7th Army Non-Commissioned Officers Leadership Academy with a 96.6% in the Train to Train method of instruction. Gary received the Army Commendation Medal and Soldier of the Quarter Award while serving. Gary was a Military Police shift supervisor for five years.

Gary then began a career with the Department of Corrections as a correctional officer. Gary was promoted to probation officer, senior probation officer and senior prison inspector where for the next 12 years he conducted criminal, civil and administrative investigations in many state prisons. Gary was also assigned to the Inspector General Drug Interdiction Team conducting searches of staff and visitors entering the prisons for contraband during weekend prison visitation. Gary also received the Correctional Probation Officer Leadership Award for the Region V, Tampa, Florida, Correctional Probation and he won the Outstanding Merit Award for leadership in the Region V Correctional Officer awards Tampa, Florida.