A prison guard watches over prisoners inside and outside the confines of local and regional jails and prisons. He makes sure they adhere to schedules for work, recreation, rest and counseling. When prisoners are required to travel from one area to another inside the compound or to other destinations on or off the property, a prison guard escorts them. He is in charge of keeping the prisoners orderly and making sure they follow policies and procedures.
The scope of a prison guard’s responsibility is often dictated by the size of the prison and how fully it is staffed. If the facility is small, the guard may also serve as an informal counselor. This regularly entails advising inmates on rules and behavior, listening to complaints and attempting to meet their needs while following institutional protocol. If staff is limited, he may also be the person in charge of screening mail and visitors for contraband or restricted materials.
The security of the physical facility is normally the job of a prison guard. He regularly conducts patrols of the site to ensure all gates, bars, locks and windows are secure. Checking for fire and safety infringements is traditionally part of the guard’s job as well.
Monitoring activity in the prison yard is also an important job duty as guards may spot possible conflicts and end them before they escalate into serious altercations. Prison guards are traditionally well trained in defense tactics as well as in the use of firearms, handcuffs and other restraining devices. They are frequently required to intervene in volatile situations to prevent violent outbreaks in the prison population.
The job of prison guard customarily entails handling a significant amount of paperwork. His job typically requires him to keep records of prisoner behavior and work progress. Regular reports on inmate disturbances and atypical occurrences are commonly required. Schedules for prisoner appointments are regularly prepared by a prison guard. Compiling written instructions for work assigned to prisoners is often the job of a prison guard.
Requirements to qualify for the job of prison guard are highly dependent upon the region or vicinity in which the correctional facility is located. Qualifications may also vary according to the security level provided. Minimum age requirements vary between 18 and 21 years. Some prisons require a bachelor’s degree, but regularly accept three years of counseling or supervision background or a combination of experience and education in lieu of the bachelor’s degree. Most systems require applicants to pass a written exam to assess writing and communication skills and to pass psychological and physical fitness tests. Probationary training periods at many facilities last an average of six months.