What Correctional Officers and Bailiffs Do
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.
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.
How to Become a Correctional Officer or Bailiff
Correctional officers go through a training academy and then are assigned to a facility for on-the-job training. Although qualifications vary by state and agency, all agencies require a high school diploma and have an age requirement. Some federal agencies also require some college education or related work experience.
The median annual wage for bailiffs was $47,830 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for correctional officers and jailers was $45,180 in May 2019.
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. Bailiffs will continue to be needed to keep order in courtrooms.
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.
Bailiffs held about 20,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of bailiffs were as follows:
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||72%|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||27|
Correctional officers and jailers held about 442,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of correctional officers and jailers were as follows:
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||53%|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||37|
|Facilities support services||5|
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.
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.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of correctional officers and bailiffs.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2019|
Police and Detectives
Police officers protect lives and property. Detectives and criminal investigators gather facts and collect evidence of possible crimes.
|See How to Become One||$65,170|
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists
Probation officers and correctional treatment specialists assist in rehabilitation of law offenders in custody or on probation or parole.
Security Guards and Gambling Surveillance Officers
Security guards and gambling surveillance officers protect property from illegal activity.
|High school diploma or equivalent||$29,710|
Firefighters control and put out fires and respond to emergencies where life, property, or the environment is at risk.
|Postsecondary nondegree award||$50,850|
For more information about Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), visit
For more information about career opportunities for correctional officers at the federal level, visit
For more information about federal government requirements for correctional officers, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Correctional Officers and Bailiffs,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/protective-service/correctional-officers.htm (visited ).