Correctional Counselor jobs involve working with offenders to prevent them from engaging in further criminal activity and being sent back to jail or prison.
Correctional counselors may also been known as correctional treatment specialists, case managers or prison counselors. Corrections counselors create comprehensive rehabilitation plans in collaboration with parole officers on behalf of their clients that cover all areas of their lives work, family social activities and participation in drug treatment programs, if applicable.
Correctional counselors work in jails, prisons, or within probation and parole agencies. They may work with adults or younger persons. Within jails and prisons, correctional counselors monitor the activities of inmates. They also administer questionnaires and psychological batteries to determine any underlying emotional issues. The case reports of corrections counselors typically review the inmate’s criminal and family background and proclivity to engage in further criminal behavior. These reports are used by parole boards when deciding whether the inmate is eligible for release.
Correction counselor jobs also involve assisting inmates to access educational and training programs to advance their job skills. They provide counseling in either individual or group sessions with regard to coping skills, anger management, interpersonal relationships and drug abuse. They then write treatment plans that target critical areas for the inmate to work on.
The number of cases a corrections counselor may have at any one point is dependent on the needs of their offenders and their risk of engaging in further criminal behavior. High risk inmates and those needing additional counseling, typically require more of the counselor’s time, thereby reducing the number of cases he or she is able to handle. Caseload also varies by jurisdiction so that some counselors may handle from 20 to more than 100 active cases at any given time. Such technological advancements as drug screening devices, electronic monitoring devices (e.g. ankle “bracelets”) and reporting kiosks assist correctional counselors in supervising the activity of inmates on their caseload.
Correctional Counselor Job Requirements
Applicants for correctional counselor jobs typically need to submit to written, verbal and psychological testing. Most agencies require that a correctional counselor be at least 21 years of age and, for Federal employment, no more than 37 years of age. Those convicted of prior felonies are not eligible to work as correctional counselors. A valid driver’s license is often required.
Prison counselors must also be proficient with the use of computers due to the fact that many agencies now use computers for rehabilitation and treatment planning, as well as case notes. Candidates should also have strong writing skills due to the many reports they will be required to prepare. Correctional counselors also need to be good listeners with excellent interpersonal skills to effectively work with offenders.
Correctional Counselor Education and Training
Although qualifications vary by agency, most agencies require that candidates for correctional counselor career path possess a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, criminal justice, urban studies, or a related field. Some employers are now requiring a master’s degree in criminal justice, social work, or psychology for those candidates who do not have previous related work experience. Different employers have different requirements regarding what constitutes “related” experience. Such experience may include work as a probation officer, parole officer, correctional officer, substance abuse treatment counselor, or social worker.
Some corrections counselors are required to complete a program sponsored by their State government, after which they may need to pass a certification exam. Most prison counselors are considered trainees for the first year of employment before being eligible for a permanent position.
Correctional Counselor Salary
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual earnings of all Corrections Counselors as of May 2008 (the last date for which statistics are available) were $45,910. In the same time period, the median annual earnings of correctional counselor employed in local government were $46,420 while those employed in State government earned a median wage of $46,580. Higher salaries may be found in urban as opposed to rural areas.
Correctional Counselor Career Opportunities
Most correctional counselors work in local and state-based prison facilities as well as within probation and parole agencies. There are more jobs available in urban than rural areas due to the higher crime rates. In the Federal Government, correctional counselors are employed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons. Advancement to supervisory positions is based on advanced (master’s level) education, experience and job performance.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.