What does a Warden do?

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  • Written By: Brendan McGuigan
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2019
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There are many different types of warden in the world, but when most people use the term they are referring to either a prison warden or a game warden. A prison warden is responsible for the general functioning of a prison, handling the disbursement of money, managing the guards, and directing policy. Historically, but less commonly these days, a prison warden could also refer to any corrections officer working in a prison, without any administrative responsibilities. A game warden, on the other hand, is an enforcement officer working in a natural preserve of some sort, or handling law enforcement in regards to the hunting of wild animals.

The modern prison warden is largely an administrator, serving as the top personnel in a jail or prison. He does not directly act as a corrections officer, although he may be promoted from the rank of corrections officer in some cases. Generally, some business training is necessary, as is a comprehensive understanding of the penal system, including the laws that govern the handling of inmates. Additionally, a prison warden will often be engaged in the community outreach aspects of a prison, helping to coordinate talks and workshops with local youth to encourage them to stay away from crime, and handling questions from the public and media.


The day of an average prison warden generally begins with a debriefing with his or her staff. At this meeting, the staff alerts the warden to any problems that may have arisen during the night, and any concerns that need to be addressed. The staff coming on for the morning are then given their instructions for the day, and any information they need to know about special events occurring that day. At this meeting the warden will also be informed if any specific inmates have concerns that need addressing.

Next, the warden will make his or her way through the facility, speaking with any inmates who have problems or input. He or she will also answer any calls from relations of the inmates who want to know what is going on, as well as calls from other concerned members of outside society. Wardens who work in prisons with a death row may also have to handle the administrative details of a death sentence, including getting a chaplain to visit the condemned, providing them with a last meal, and running a practice session to make sure the sentence is carried out properly and with the minimum risk of cruel and unusual punishment.

The job of a game warden is very different from that of a prison warden. A game warden is an on-the-ground law enforcement officer, specializing in wildlife or wildlife preserves. It is the game warden’s responsibility to make sure poachers are not illegally killing or trapping animals, and that those who are hunting in an area have the necessary permits and are following all applicable rules. Although being in nature alone every day appeals to many people, the job of a game warden can be quite dangerous. Many poaching operations are quite lucrative, and as a result those engaged in them are willing to use deadly force to protect themselves, putting the game warden in harm’s way.


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