Correctional Officers

sec_arr Appendix A: Background Information on Correctional Officers

Appendix A: Background Information on Correctional Officers

As of May 2015, there were 427,790 correctional officers (COs) actively employed in the U.S., including those in state, federal, and local facilities; support services; and psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals.21

COs represent an entirely different side of criminal justice as compared to their counterparts who serve in police departments and sheriff’s offices (law enforcement agencies). COs are responsible for enforcing rules and regulations inside of federal, state, or local prisons/jails, and rehabilitative and/or correctional facilities. They supervise inmates on a 24/7 basis including meals, recreation, and work in addition to transporting prisoners to courts, hospitals, etc.2,22 This document does not address parole or probation officers.

COs face a different set of hazards from that of the average police officer due to close contact with violent inmates which increases their risk for intentional injury and/or death.23 A review of the literature is also replete with other risks encountered by COs including TB, MRSA, depression, anxiety, stress, and suicide.24-29 CO safety has been relatively ignored despite the fact that reducing occupational injuries and fatalities in corrections personnel was one of the goals of the 2009 National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

Prison is a controlled environment and occupational injuries are often the result of assaults by inmates and/or restraining an inmate during a fight.30,31 In 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported 9 fatal occupational injuries in COs, and 96 fatal occupational injuries in LEOs.32 In 2014, four fatal occupational injuries were reported in COs and 109 in LEOs.32 There were 113 fatal occupational injuries and 125,200 non-fatal occupational injuries reported in COs from 1999 to 2008.30

In 2014, 27,660 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses occurred in LEOs and 16,050 nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses occurred in COs for incidence rates of 485.8 and 423.3 per 10,000 respectively.33,34

CO vs. LEO Fatal Occupational Injuries (2014)
Total in U.S. Fatal Occupational Injuries % Fatalities
LEO 858,150* 109** 0.0127%
CO 495,880* 4* 0.0008%

* See