Prison Officer

Community and Health

Related Jobs or Working with these Jobs

Service or PersuadingClerical or OrganisingSkill Level 2Skill Level 3

Prison officers are responsible for the operation of prisons and the custody, care and supervision of prisoners.  Future Growth Strong

They patrol assigned areas of the prison, inspecting doors, gates and windows to ensure they are secure and observing and maintaining the behaviour of inmates. They also conduct searches of inmates and cells for drugs, weapons and other illegal or prohibited items.

When new prisoners arrive, prison officers carry out admittance procedures, which may include issuing prisoners with uniforms, briefing them on prison rules and filling in necessary paperwork.

They also work with prisoners to develop a rehabilitation plan. Some prison officers may also assist in the delivery of vocational training.

Prison Officers are responsible for the supervision, training, security, and rehabilitation of prisoners as committed by the court system. They must be able to establish positive relationship with prisoners and possess a large amount of empathy/understanding while also holding a position of power. Prison officers must often make quick decisions and deal with unexpected situations.

ANZSCO description: Supervises and controls the activities of inmates in a prison or other correctional institution.

Alternative names: Corrections Officer, Custodial Officer, Prison Guard

John O'Shea - Cooma Prison
John O'Shea - Governor of Cooma Jail, NSW
(Source: ABC 2017)


Knowledge, skills and attributes

A prison officer needs:

  • interpersonal skills, with an understanding of different social and cultural backgrounds

  • the ability to work as part of a team

  • a high-level of personal integrity

  • good communication and conflict resolution skills

  • good problem solving ability

  • a good level of physical fitness  

  • Ability to work under pressure

  • Cultural awareness and empathy

  • Hold strong people management skills

  • Must have the ability to act in a humane/just/courteous manner

  • No formal education/training is required

  • On-the-job training may be provided

Duties and tasks

  • Break up altercations as necessary

  • Complete prisoner reports/reviews, work with other health/social staff members

  • Maintain and safe and healthy environment for prisoners

  • Motivate prisoners to take actions that are best for themselves and others

  • Often complete custodial duties

  • Perform search procedures and security checks

  • Provide care and support for prisoners and participating in rehabilitation programmes as necessary


Locked in
(Source: ABC 2017)

Working conditions

Prisons run 24-hours a day, every day of the year. Some prison officers may be able to work regular business hours, Monday to Friday, however, they can also be required to work in shifts that will include working nights, and on weekends and public holidays.

Prisons have strict security procedures that must be followed, both to keep inmates secure and for the protection of prison staff and visitors. The specific requirements and level of security will vary, depending on the particular facility.

Prison Officers are often paid very well due to the fact that they often work in potentially dangerous environments. Some prison officers do not feel safe in their environments due to the fact that they must manage violent criminals. Most work is indoors, though supervision/patrolling duties may extend outside the prison as well. The job of prison officer can be rather stressful and requires the ability to deal with a variety of difficult people, as confrontations often arise.

Did You Know?

Australia has 95 Correctional Centres.

Youth Detention Centres are for juveniles

Snapshot: In Victoria 2015:

At 30 June 2015 there were 4,769 sentenced prisoners and 1,413 unsentenced prisoners in Victoria, thus making a total of 6,182 prisoners. From those 6,182 prisoners, 5,762 were males (93%) and 420 were females (7%). Those numbers also include 480 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners, making them 8% of the total number of prisoners in Victoria.

In 2015, the average male prisoner in Victoria was:
35.5 years old
born in Australia
did not complete high school
a history of alcohol and drug abuse
single and unemployed at the time he entered the prison system
sentence of three years in a medium security prison
more likely than not to have been imprisoned previously

In 2015, the average female prisoner in Victoria was:
36 years old
born in Australia
single or in a de facto relationship
likely to be a mother/primary care giver
unemployed, home duties or on a pension before prison
has a higher level of education than her male counterpart but still failed to complete high school
sentence of less than two years
likely to be in prison for the first time

At 30 June 2015, the total operational capacity for Victorian prisons was 7,093 and had a utilisation rate of 90.5%.

What is your response to these statistics?

If you were in charge of prisons, how would you go about decreasing the number of prisoners?

Tools and technologies

The specific technology and equipment used at prisons may vary depending on the particular security requirements. However, most prison officers will use two-way radios to communicate around the prison. There will also be video cameras and alarms to monitor prisoners and alert staff of any issues. Upon commencing employment, a prison officer will be issued a uniform, in some cases they may also be issued personal protection equipment such as a taser, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray (pepper spray) and/or an expandable baton. They will also need basic computer and word processing skills to write reports and keep records.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a prison officer with the State or Territory Department of Justice you must pass the recruitment process and complete the entry-level training program.

Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens or a Permanent Resident.

The selection assessment includes an identification check, selection panel interview, psychological interview, a criminal history screening and an integrity check.

Successful applicants are then required to complete a 14 week paid training program at the Department’s Training Academy. After initial training you need to complete a six month on the job probationary period.

Prison officers who successfully complete this nine month training program are awarded the nationally recognised Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial).

Did You Know?

Sashi Cheliah - the Australian Masterchef for 2018 is a Prison Officer from South Australia.

Sashi Cheliah


Related Jobs or Working with these Jobs  

Community Corrections Officer

Community Corrections Officer



Police Officer

Police Officer

Social Worker

Social Worker

Material sourced from Jobs & Skills WA [Prison Officer; ];
Open University
JobOutlook [Prison Officer; ] 

Prison Officer



Garbage Collector

Local Government Inspector


Postal Worker









Early Childhood Educator

Social Worker

Real Estate Agent

Special Care Worker


Public Servant


Medical Practitioner




Medical Imaging Technologist

Speech Pathologist

Occupational Therapist

Natural Therapist

Community Corrections Officer


SES Officer

Art Therapist



Plastic or Reconstructive Surgeon




Prison Officer


Indigenous Community Worker