A Prison Warder, corrections officer, correctional officer, detention officer, or a prison officer is a person charged with the responsibility of the supervision, safety and security of prisoners in a prison, jail, or similar form of secure custody. Historically, terms such as jailer (also spelled jailor or gaoler), jail guard, prison guard, and turnkey have also been used for warders.

These officers are responsible for the care, custody, and control of individuals who have been arrested and are awaiting trial while on remand or who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to serve time in a prison or jail. They are also responsible for the safety and security of the facility itself. Most prison officers are employed by the government of the country in which they operate, though some are employed by private companies.


The duties of a correctional officer can vary, but they often include:

  • Maintaining order and discipline within the institution
  • Enforcing facility rules, regulations, and applicable legislation
  • Searching inmates and environs for contraband
  • Transporting inmates to courts, other correctional facilities, or into the community (e.g. medical appointments, escorted day-pass, etc.)
  • Providing first-response in the event of assault, riot, fire, medical emergency, etc.
  • Tactical response for ongoing emergencies, such as riot, hostage taking, or other major crisis

Working EnvironmentEdit

A correctional officer's job is often considered dangerous with inmate confrontations resulting in many injuries a year. A correctional officer's working environment can vary considerably with some correctional institutions being modern, well lit, air-conditioned, and ventilated while others are old, overcrowded, and noisy. Correctional officers often work on a rotating shift basis including weekends and holidays. Since many correctional facilities have officer shortages, correctional officers are often required to work additional shifts. Having to put in extra hours can result in fatigue, low morale, and family-related problems. Correctional officers may also get burned out because their work is unpredictable, identity-threatening, tragic, incongruous, and stigmatized.

Because a correctional institution is a controlled environment inmates will often attempt to disrupt it. Various remedies for such disruptions, including physical and less-than-lethal force, isolation and less-lethal weaponry are often adopted depending on the type of correctional facility and its jurisdiction. Due to multiple disruptions and challenging work environments correctional officers often face high levels of stress, burnout, health problems, high turnover rates, low life expectancy, and decreased quality of life. In fact, the National Institute of Corrections reports that after 20 years of service the life expectancy of a correctional officer is 58.

The duties a correctional officer carries out will often depend on the type of institution in which they work. For instance, a correctional officer at a minimum security institution may be responsible for casually supervising inmates as they work or participate in treatment programs while at a maximum security institution a correctional officer would have duties involving the regular use of restraints, weapon searches, and tactical response.

Correctional officers are also expected to control their emotions, remain impersonal, and engage in activities that are often conflicting. For example, they are expected to respect and nurture, yet suspect and discipline inmates and have an 'us and them' mentality.

Warders in 'Scum'Edit

Group shot from Observer Magazine,1979: photo scan kindly supplied by John Judd.
(L-R: Hunt, Duke, Greaves, Sands, Taylor, Whittle, Goodyear)

The warders in Alan Clarke's 1979 borstal drama are generally portrayed in a negative light, with many unredeeming qualities, such as racism, violence, apathy and indifference to the inmates care, well being and rehabilitation, these being the key factors of the film's criticism of the borstal system.

The full cast of warders and associated staff are:

See AlsoEdit