A prison officer, also known as a corrections officer or warden, is a person entrusted with the care and safety of prisoners and the safe management of a prison facility. Prison officers may have a variety of different jobs within a particular system, but tend to work together to form a cohesive authority unit. Becoming a prison officer takes considerable training in many regions and may have specific prerequisites.
Often put in supervisory roles, a prison officer needs to have excellent communication and people skills. To maintain order, wardens must attempt to keep prisoners calm and peaceful, but at the same time maintain the authority of the system. All aspects of a prisoner's life may be in the hands of prison officers, from rehabilitation efforts to health care.
In regions where rehabilitation is an important component of prison goals, officers can serve as motivators and counselors to prisoners. Some seek out the job in order to try and help people gain the tools and the awareness to live a lawful life in the future. Often asked to play the part of a therapist or social worker, a prison officer has to keep a close eye on prisoners for signs of suicidal depression, increasing hostility, or other problematic issues.
Security and keeping order are naturally very large parts of a prison officer's job. Trained in weapons and self-defense, prison wardens may still occasionally find their own lives in danger if a prisoner tries to escape, start a riot, or simply enact violence. Wardens are responsible for the transportation of prisoners to and from court dates, work duty, and furloughs. They also must conduct frequent searches in order to keep contraband items, such as weapons or drugs, away from prisoners.
In some cases, prison officers serve as liaisons for social workers, lawyers, and prisoners' families. They are often in the best position to assess prisoner behavior, as they work with the prisoners on a consistent, daily basis. Many are trained in providing efficient court reports, which may be used to report rule infractions and violent incidents, but may also be used to assess a prisoner's status regarding a possible parole or early release.
Some people stereotype prison officers as sadistic thugs who enjoy holding power over others. While some experts suggest that some wardens may indeed fit that description, many are far more interested in helping prisoners than asserting power. At its heart, the job of a prison officer requires a person to put him or herself in danger and work on a daily basis with people that most would fear being around. When performing duties with compassion, efficiency, and honest, a prison officer may be the very model of a humanitarian, albeit one that must sometimes resort to disciplinary tactics.