Correctional Officer and Bailiff Career Description


Correctional officers oversee those who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms.

What they do

Correctional officers are responsible for overseeing individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial or who have been sentenced to serve time in jail or prison. Bailiffs, also known as marshals or court officers, are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms. Their duties, which vary by court, include enforcing courtroom rules, assisting judges, guarding juries, delivering court documents, and providing general security for courthouses.

Correctional officers typically do the following:

  • Enforce rules and keep order within jails or prisons
  • Supervise activities of inmates
  • Inspect facilities to ensure that they meet security and safety standards
  • Search inmates for contraband items
  • Report on inmate conduct
  • Escort and transport inmates

Bailiffs typically do the following:

  • Ensure the security of the courtroom
  • Enforce courtroom rules
  • Follow court procedures
  • Escort judges, jurors, witnesses, and prisoners
  • Handle evidence and court documents

Inside the prison or jail, correctional officers enforce rules and regulations. They maintain security by preventing disturbances, assaults, and escapes, and by inspecting facilities. They check cells and other areas for unsanitary conditions, contraband, signs of a security breach (such as tampering with window bars and doors), and other rule violations. Officers also inspect mail and visitors for prohibited items. They write reports and fill out daily logs detailing inmate behavior and anything else of note that occurred during their shift.

Correctional officers may have to restrain inmates in handcuffs and leg irons to escort them safely to and from cells and to see authorized visitors. Officers also escort prisoners to courtrooms, medical facilities, and other destinations.

Bailiffs’ specific duties vary by court, but their primary duty is to maintain order and security in courts of law. They enforce courtroom procedures that protect the integrity of the legal process. For example, they ensure that attorneys and witnesses do not influence juries outside of the courtroom, and they also may isolate juries from the public in some circumstances. As a neutral party, they may handle evidence during court hearings to ensure that only permitted evidence is displayed.

Work Environment

Correctional officers may work indoors or outdoors, and bailiffs generally work in courtrooms. They both may be required to stand for long periods.

How to become a Correctional Officer and/or Bailiff

Correctional officers and bailiffs typically attend a training academy. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma. Federal agencies may also require some college education or previous work experience.

Many agencies establish a minimum age for correctional officers, which is typically between 18 and 21 years of age.

Correctional officers and bailiffs must have at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

For employment in federal prisons, the Federal Bureau of Prisons requires entry-level correctional officers to have at least a bachelor’s degree or 1 to 3 years of full-time experience in a field providing counseling, assistance, or supervision to individuals.

Correctional officers and bailiffs complete training at an academy. Training typically lasts several months, but this varies by state. The International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training maintains links to states’ Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) programs. Academy trainees receive instruction in a number of subjects, including self-defense, institutional policies, regulations, operations, and security procedures.


The median annual wage for bailiffs was $47,830 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $24,620, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $82,900.

Job Outlook

Employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2019 to 2029. State and local budget constraints and prison population levels will determine how many correctional officers are necessary.

Although correctional officers will continue to be needed to watch over the U.S. prison population, changes to criminal laws can have a large effect on how many people are arrested and incarcerated each year.

Similar Job Titles

Correctional Officer, Correctional Sergeant, Corrections Officer (CO), Custody Assistant, Deputy Jailer, Detention Deputy, Detention Officer, Jail Officer, Jailer, Jailor, Bailiff

Related Occupations

Social and Human Service Assistant, Psychiatric Technician, First-Line Supervisor of Correctional Officers, Criminal Investigator and Special Agent, Police Patrol Officer

More Information

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Video Transcript

Maintaining a balance of the 3 “Cs” – care, custody, and control— with the incarcerated, is up to correctional officers and bailiffs. They keep prisoners safe and contained. Correctional officers oversee people who have been imprisoned, enforce the facility’s rules and regulations, and monitor the whereabouts of inmates at all times. They search inmates and cells for weapons and drugs, and may need to restrain inmates for safety or to escort them. Correctional officers settle disputes and enforce discipline, but also may schedule work assignments and other activities. Daily logs and reports detailing every shift are required. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who maintain safety and order in courtrooms. They guard juries, deliver court documents, and enforce courtroom rules. Most correctional officers work for government correctional institutions— some modern and well-maintained, and some old, hot, and overcrowded. Bailiffs work in courtrooms. Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous… injuries and illness rates are some of the highest of all careers. Officers work in shifts 24/7, including weekends and holidays. In addition to a high school education, officers train in a special academy, and may also receive on-the-job training at a facility. Federal prisons require a bachelor’s degree or related work experience. Candidates must not have a felony conviction.

Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH,
CareerOneStop, O*Net Online