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Correctional Officer

Dmitry Kalinovsky/

At a Glance

Correctional Officers, known at one time as prison guards, are responsible for keeping order and overseeing inmates in a prison or penitentiary. They also help offenders prepare for life back in the community by evaluating their progress and providing support when needed, in collaboration with outside organizations and individuals.

The Work of a Correctional Officer


Correctional Officers ensure the safety of persons serving sentences in prisons (provincial facilities for offenders serving sentences of less than two years) and penitentiaries (federal facilities for offenders serving sentences of two years or more) and make sure things run as they should in these facilities. From the time an offender begins serving a sentence, the officer works with other justice professionals to develop a plan for the offender’s eventual return into the community. 

Main duties

Correctional Officers:

  • Enforce the regulations in place at the institution;
  • Prevent disturbances, rioting and escapes;
  • Carry out searches;
  • Escort offenders to and from facilities (for court hearings, for example);
  • Make sure offenders are safe and provide first aid if needed;
  • Write reports (disciplinary reports, for example) and participate in various committees;
  • Help offenders make the transition to life back in the community;
  • Work with other professionals in implementing a rehabilitation plan and preparing offenders for their eventual return to the community; and
  • Prepare reports on the behavior of offenders serving sentences of less than six months. 

Working in the community 

In the community, Correctional Officers: 

  • Deal with offenders who require increased monitoring;
  • Deal with offenders who require specific interventions as part of their return to the community in an effort to reduce the risk of re-offending;
  • Work with probation officers responsible for regular assessments and updates to an offender’s intervention or rehabilitation plan;
  • Call or visit offenders serving their sentence in the community (known as a conditional sentence) to make sure they are abiding by any curfews and house arrest conditions; and
  • Follow up with offenders on probation, out on temporary absence. 

Correctional officers monitor offenders very closely. For example, they must be highly observant in order to detect dangerous or prohibited objects that have found their way inside the correctional facility.


In addition to working in penitentiaries (federal facilities) and prisons (provincial facilities), corrections officers may also work in probation offices. 

Probation offices

Officers working in probation offices provide guidance and review the conditions of legal orders. This can include: 

  • Monitoring offenders under house arrest through phone calls or home visits (making sure, for example, they are abiding by curfews);
  • Following up with offenders serving their sentence in the community (on probation, parole, etc.).

Education and Training


You must hold a high school diploma. 


Even though a college or university degree in corrections or a law-related field is not currently a requirement, it would certainly help better prepare you for a career in this field. 

Other requirements

You will need to: 

  • Pass a medical exam similar to the type given to police force applicants; and
  • Sign a declaration under oath that you have never been found guilty of a criminal offence for which a pardon was not granted. 

Federal penitentiaries and provincial prisons

If you want to work in a penitentiary or a prison, you must also pass tests to evaluate your judgement, observation skills, speaking and listening skills as well as physical abilities. 

To work in the federal system, you must successfully complete a Correctional Service Canada training course. If you choose to work in a provincial facility, you will receive training geared to these facilities.


The work of a corrections officer has changed substantially in recent years. Known in the past as prison "guards", corrections officers today play a more active role than in the past. They are essential to the successful reintegration of offenders into the community right from the very first day of their prison term. 

One of the main challenges facing corrections officers today is changing people’s perception of the work they do. While a good deal of the day-to-day work of corrections officers involves maintaining control inside facilities, they also devote increasingly more of their time to counselling type work. 

To find out more about a career as a corrections officer in Canada’s federal facilities, visit the Correctional Service Canada's Careers website. For information about becoming a corrections officer in Alberta, visit the Government of Alberta website.

Necessary skills

Here are some of the key skills needed for a career as a corrections officer.

Ability to control your emotions

There is no shortage of challenges and situations that will get an officer’s adrenaline flowing. Often, the corrections officer is faced with situations that are difficult to manage. Nonetheless, corrections officers must always remain calm. 

Observes rules

People serving sentences in prisons and penitentiaries have to live together in a type of community. In order to maintain order in these facilities, rules must be established. But more importantly, the rules must be adhered to. It is the Correctional Officers’ job to make sure the rules are observed. 

Ability to be firm

When Correctional Officers discover rules have been broken, they must act, requiring them to be firm and decisive. They must earn the respect of inmates and ensure the rules of the facility are adhered to without going too far and abusing their authority. 

Ability to interact well with others

As someone who works to help offenders serving sentences return to the community, a corrections officer must be able to earn their trust and respect. The officer must, therefore, have the ability to relate well to the offenders they deal with. 

These are just some examples of the skills you would need to be a corrections officer. Qualities like having good judgment, as well as being observant and being able to remain calm in the face of danger would also help make you an excellent officer. fournit de l'information juridique générale et non des avis ou conseils juridiques. Il est conseillé de consulter un avocat afin de connaître les règles qui s’appliquent à votre situation particulière. Par ailleurs, la plupart de l’information juridique présentée sur ce site est basée sur le droit en vigueur partout au Canada, à l'exception du Québec.

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