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Correctional Treatment Specialist Career Guide

The primary goals of the United States’ prison system are public safety and inmate rehabilitation. At any given time, more than two million people are incarcerated in the US. Prisons generally offer educational and training programs for prisoners, many of whom will be eligible for parole at some point. Inmates work with correctional treatment specialists to find programs that will help them gain the necessary skills for success when reentering society.

Correctional Treatment Specialist Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks

Correctional treatment specialists identify appropriate programs for inmates, refer them to those programs, and monitor their progress in the programs. Case managers’ primary goal is to help inmates develop the necessary skills to prevent recidivism within the prison system. They help formulate release plans when offenders are released from custody or from community correctional supervision (probation/parole). Correctional treatment officers identify individuals who may be appropriate for early release, work release programs, weekend furloughs, and other special programs for inmates who are not considered security or escape risks. Due to prison overcrowding, case managers carry an extremely large case load.

How to Become a Correctional Treatment Specialist: Requirements and Qualifications

The minimum requirements to become a correctional specialist officer are a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, human services, psychology, sociology, or criminology. Several accredited schools offer a criminal justice degree or a criminology degree for prospective correctional treatment specialists. Case managers must also:

  • Be able to work in a secure custody facility/closed environment
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Have the ability to work with potentially violent individuals and with the general public

Correctional Treatment Specialist Job Training

Specific training for correctional treatment officers depends on the organization for which they work. A minimum of one year working as a trainee may be necessary to earn an offer of permanent employment. In addition, state and federal employees may have to pass an exam upon completion of training.

Other Helpful Skills and Experience

Prospective correctional treatment officers should have strong communication, both written and oral, skills and be able to work with a diverse group of people. An understanding of the correctional system, community resources, and counseling issues may also be necessary.
Candidates may have a hiring advantage if they have previous experience working in a correctional setting or dealing with individuals who have behavioral problems or drug or alcohol addictions.

Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career

  • Case manager
  • Correctional care and treatment worker
  • Correctional counselor
  • Correctional treatment officer
  • Treatment manager

Career Opportunities and Employers

Correctional treatment specialists are employed in a variety of settings, including state and federal correctional facilities, such as the Iowa Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Others work with probation and parole officers in independent offices outside of correctional institutions. Advancement generally depends on experience or advanced degrees. A PhD or a master’s degree in related fields such as psychology, law, or criminology is necessary for advancement to some higher positions.

Correctional Treatment Specialist Salary and Outlook

The projected job outlook for these positions is highly favorable due to high prison populations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for probation officers and correctional officers is $48,190.1 Correctional treatment specialists are hired at the state and federal levels. Federal level employment pays slightly higher than state employment.

Frequently Asked Questions About This Career

What type of schedule do correctional treatment specialists usually work?

Specialists generally work full time and should be prepared to work overtime as needed. Prospective case managers should also be prepared to be on call, when necessary, and to answers calls from law enforcement at any time of the day or the night.

Is stress a concern for correctional treatment officers?

Officers may deal with stress as a result of working with offenders, some of whom may not cooperate or who may be violent, and when facing deadlines for finishing required paperwork, such as writing reports.

How important is the role of correctional treatment officer?

Correctional treatment officers play an integral role in the justice system. Officers must write in-depth reports on the prisoners with whom they work, including the officer’s professional view of whether the prisoner is likely to commit another crime. These case reports are then given to the parole board.

Is it acceptable for correctional treatment specialists to join a union?

Yes. In fact, more case managers than any other professionals belonged to unions in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Additional Resources

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1. Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/probation-officers-and-correctional-treatment-specialists.htm