Correctional Officer or Bailiff

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Salary Range: $40,000 to $59,999

Average Hourly: $ 22.81

Education: High school diploma or equivalent

Number of Jobs: 437100

Jobs Added to 2029: -29900

Growth: Decline

Go here to see salary and job data specific to the United Kingdom.

What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs 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

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations, often resulting from confrontations with inmates. Officers work in shifts that cover all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

Work Environment Details

Bailiffs held about 18,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 67%
State government, excluding education and hospitals 32

Correctional officers and jailers held about 418,500 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:

State government, excluding education and hospitals 52%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 38
Facilities support services 5
Federal government 4

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

Injuries and Illnesses

Working in a correctional institution can be stressful and dangerous. Correctional officers and jailers may become injured in confrontations with inmates, and they have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations.

The job demands that officers be alert and ready to react throughout their entire shift.

Work Schedules

Correctional officers usually work full time on rotating shifts. Because jail and prison security must be provided around the clock, officers work all hours of the day and night, including weekends and holidays. Many officers are required to work overtime. Bailiffs’ hours are determined by when court is in session.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of correctional officers and bailiffs is projected to decline 7 percent from 2020 to 2030.

Despite declining employment, about 35,700 openings for correctional officers and bailiffs are projected each year, on average, over the decade. All of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to other occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

How to Become a Correctional Officer 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. Bachelor's degree fields vary but commonly include security and protective service or a related field, such as social science.


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.

Important Qualities

Decisionmaking skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must use both their training and common sense to quickly determine the best course of action and to take the necessary steps to achieve a desired outcome.

Detail oriented. Correctional officers and bailiffs follow and enforce strict procedures in correctional facilities and courts to ensure everyone’s safety.

Interpersonal skills. Correctional officers and bailiffs must be able to interact and communicate effectively with inmates and others to maintain order in correctional facilities and courtrooms.

Negotiating skills. Correctional officers must be able to assist others in resolving differences in order to avoid conflict.

Physical strength. Correctional officers and bailiffs must have the strength to physically subdue inmates or others.

Self-discipline. Correctional officers must control their emotions when confronted with hostile situations.

United Kingdom Job Data


Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Correctional Officers and Bailiffs, at (visited ).