Average Salary for a Corrections Officer

The average salary for a correctional officer varies widely both around the world and within the United States. In the US, an officer's likely starting salary depends on the particular county and state, and of course on the particular job conditions, demographic profile, and socio-economic character of a given region. This report surveys the latest salary numbers (2011-2013) from local regions across the United States and Canada, taken from current data and reports no more than 2 years old.

United States

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average correctional employee earns $39,020 per year, or $18.76 per hour. The job outlook is 5%, which is slower than average. Only a high-school diploma is required. Correctional officers and jailers make up the largest employee group in state government, more numerous than registered nurses and police officers. Not surprisingly, the average salary of correctional officers has a huge impact on the overall public safety budget in any given year.

Probation officers work with some of the same clientele as correctional officers, but perform more specialized administrative work and earn a national average salary of $47,200 per year, or $22.69 per hour, but probation officers require normally a bachelor's degree as well as some additional relevant training and qualifications. The job outlook for probation officers is considerably better than correctional officers at present, with a projected 18% job growth rate, or 13% higher than correctional officers. Like correctional officers, however, stated salaries vary depending on whether the officer works at the state, county, or federal level.

Salaries in Arkansas

The Arkansas Department of Corrections employs roughly 4,100 workers, and the 2012 average salary for state employees was $38,655 per year (Arkansas Business, 23 April 2012).

Salaries in California

Correctional officers in California's CDCR are among the highest paid in the country. State correctional employees in California earn an average of $60,000 to $65,000 per year, while parole officers earn roughly $80,000. These, however, are not starting salaries, but average salaries, so the numbers make it difficult to compare to other states. California is currently scaling back its prison operations over the next several years, ever since the Supreme Court in May of 2012 ruled that California's overcrowding problem constituted cruel and unusual punishment. At that time, the inmate population was 140,000, but now it is down to 123,000. The most recent number for parolees being supervised by California parole officers is 65,000, down from 105,000. It is not clear what these cuts to the inmate population will have on correctional officer salaries in the future.

Salaries in Kentucky

Correctional officers in Kenton, Kentucky currently earn $11.50 per hour, or an average salary of $23,920 per year, which is compared to the $14.86 per hour (or $30,909 per year) that correctional officers at nearby Louisville, Kentucky earn, in addition to the latter's regular raises based on seniority. So even within the same state, salaries can fluctuate.

Salaries in Massachusetts

According to the sheriff's office, the officers at Barnstable County Correctional Facility in Massachusetts showed that starting salaries begin at $37,700 per year for the initial probationary year, which rises to $40,500 in the next year, presumably as another effort to improve lagging retention rates among correctional officers.

Salaries in New York

A comptroller's report of county correctional employees in Buffalo, New York showed that there were huge discrepancies between the income that officers were "stated" to earn, for example, which was between $42,372 and $53,812, and what officers "actually" earned, which was between $95,021 and $130,211, for one sample taken. Oftentimes this can be due to working consecutive overtime shifts; for example, working 16-hour shifts back-to-back for six days in a row.

Salaries in Florida

Florida employs 11,000 correctional officers, and the average competitive, market-based salary for these officers is between $28,280 and $30,160 per year. Private sector correctional officers, who earn $29,628 per year, made about $1,000 less per year on average than public sector correctional officers in Florida, who earn $30,808 per year, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's annual Criminal Justice Agency Profile Report.

Correctional officers at the all-male Indian River youth facility near the Oslo area in Florida have been found to recently make $45,099 per year plus benefits, which is considerably higher than the national average, however, the base pay for the majority of the full-time staff at this institution make $28,000. The Indian River facility closed in May of last year. In 2011, then Florida state secretary for the Department of Corrections Ed Buss made $145,000 per year, while a health care policy adviser the secretary hired made roughly $180,000 on a 10-month contract concerning the privatization of health-care services for inmates. Under Buss' three-tiered salary system, wardens at the largest facilities with the most challenging offender populations earned $87,550 a year, while those at medium-sized, general-purpose facilities earned an income of $82,550, and wardens at the smallest prisons earned $77,550. However these positions represent only a small and unrepresentative fraction of the industry.

Salaries in Oklahoma

A starting salary for state correctional officers in Oklahoma is $11.83 per hour, or roughly $21,000 per year, which is actually less than many entry-level retail jobs in the same state.

Salaries in New Orleans

In New Orleans, average salaries can be even lower than Oklahoma, starting at just over $9.69 an hour or $20,155 per year for officers at Orleans Parish Prison, for example.

Salaires in Missouri

In St. Louis, MO, the average correctional officer earns an income of $33,306 per year, which is modest compared to the average, but these may be better jobs since the average Missouri officer spends a much-higher-than-average 7 and 1/2 years on the job.

Salaries in Montana

Montana state correctional employees make roughly $12.57 per hour or $26,146 per year (at least those at Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge).

In Lancaster County Prison, Pennsylvannia, correctional officers earn $13.63 per hour, or $28,350 per year, but on the average, Pennsylvannia correctional officer salaries start at $11.82 a day or $24,856 per year.

Salaries in West Virginia

In West Virginia, the starting average salaries for correctional officers begin at $22,584 per year. In Mississippi, they are roughly $500 lower. Both of these salary ranges are approaching the federal poverty line for a family of four. In addition to the low rate of pay in West Virginia is also the state's record high inmate-to-gaurd ratio and a high staff turnover, which is currently at 17%. One employee interviewed in the news stated that after 12 years of service in West Virginia corrections, he only makes $32,000, despite the considerable risk to personal safety.

Salaries in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, prison guards in 2001 made an average of $35,000 in salary per year.

UK

Probation officers in the UK make between £21,500 and £28,000 a year, but these careers, like probation and parole officers in the United States, require some more qualifications, including an honours degree in community justice studies as well as the Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice for those looking in the Liverpool region. 

Workplace Safety - Is it Worth It?

According to Canadian statistics, 17% of federal correctional officers suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is compared to only 1% in the general public. (Federal Correctional Officers Support Proposed Changes to Workers' Compensation Amendment Act, 24 October 2012, Canada NewsWire). In addition, a report by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics released in 2011 showed that correctional officers suffered by far the most nonfatal workplace injuries as compared to any other occupational category, making up 16% of the total for state employees, with 11,420 cases per year. Correctional officers also experienced the highest number of days off from work in 2008 among all occupational categories in 2008 (Occupational Injuries and Illnesses by Selected Characteristics for State and Local Government, 24 February 2010, Targeted News Service).

Sources

 
Northern Ky. jailers have high turnover rate, 20 June 2011, Associated Press Newswires

Comptroller's report targets rampant overtime at county jails ; Auditors suggest 67 new hires, 22 September 2011, Buffalo News

Guards at Orleans Parish Prison say low morale affecting security, 28 June 2012, New Orleans CityBusiness

Lawmakers: Okla. Gov. Fallin's budget falls short for corrections system, M Scott Carter, 7 February 2013

Da Tops County's Pay List ; Planners Do Well. Corrections Officers Fight For Raises, 15 April 2012, Lancaster New Era/Intelligencer Journal/Sunday News

OIL BOOM BRINGS SCARCITY OF WORKERS IN SMALL TOWNS, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 19 August 2012

Protect your potential, 12 April 2012, Liverpool Echo

LAYOFFS FOR PRISON WORKERS GUARDS, PAROLE AGENTS TO GET PINK SLIPS STATE: MOVE COMES AS REALIGNMENT PLAN REDUCES THE NUMBER OF INMATES, 22 September 2012, Los Angeles Daily News
   

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