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Corrections Officer

Āpiha Whare Herehere

Alternative titles for this job

Corrections officers are responsible for keeping prisoners safe and secure and motivating them to make changes in their lives.

Pay

New corrections officers usually earn

$51K-$54K per year

Experienced corrections officers usually earn

$54K-$63K per year

Source: Department of Corrections, 2018.

Job opportunities

Chances of getting a job as a corrections officer are good due to an increase in the number of prisoners.

Pay

Pay for corrections officers varies depending on their experience and level of responsibility.

  • Corrections officers in training can expect to earn about $51,000 a year.
  • Trained corrections officers usually earn between $51,000 and $54,000.
  • Senior and principal corrections officers can earn between $54,000 and $63,000.

Source: Department of Corrections, 2018. 

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)

What you will do

Corrections officers may do some or all of the following:

  • supervise prisoners' daily routine, which includes meal, work and recreation times
  • monitor, assess and manage the behaviour and safety of prisoners
  • patrol prison buildings and grounds
  • ensure the physical and mental safety of prisoners
  • set up and monitor prisoners' sentence plans
  • monitor prison visits and record visitors' details
  • motivate prisoners to make changes to their behaviour
  • help control and lessen conflict in the prison
  • take part in rehabilitation programmes
  • prepare reports relating to prisoners and any incidents that occur
  • escort prisoners to court hearings, funerals or appointments with dentists or doctors.

Skills and knowledge

Corrections officers need to have knowledge of:

  • prison policy, procedures, rules and routines
  • control and restraint techniques
  • first aid and safety procedures.

Working conditions

Corrections officers:

  • work shifts, including public holidays, weekends and nights. They work eight hours a day and 80 hours a fortnight. They may also be on call
  • work in prisons and courts. They also supervise prisoners in work groups on prison grounds or off-site
  • work in conditions that can be demanding and stressful as they may be at risk of verbal and physical abuse.

What's the job really like?

Corrections officer video

Hirini discovers what’s involved in becoming a corrections officer - 8.56 mins.

Hirini: Hello, my name is Hirini Pirihi and I’m interested in being a corrections officer at the Department of Corrections.

Clinton: So, today Hirini will spend the day inside the walls of Spring Hill Corrections Facility, a 650-bed prison for males located in the Waikato.

Hine: Morning Hirini!

Hirini: Morning!

Hine: I’m Hine Khan, I’m corrections officer here at Spring Hill.

Clinton: And first up, Hine escorts Hirini, inside the high security unit. So what is Hirini’s first impression?

Hirini: A little bit of intimidation when you first get in, that’s why I’m going to try and stay close to the guards!

Hine: OK Hirini, this is where I work, alright, welcome to 16 alpha. As you can see there are two pods in the unit – this side is the motivated side, prisoners who are identified as drug free, gang free, they’re compliant in the unit with the rules of the unit and also their behaviour is good. The prisoners however on this side are the opposite side of the coin, so they’re our unmotivated side.

Hirini: So what kind of crimes do most of these guys do?

Hine: Well high security prisoners are in here for some fairly serious offences OK – you’re looking at murders, sexual violation, aggravated robbery and also drugs.

Inmate: Yeah my cuzzie, f*** yeah bro…

Hine: OK Hirini, part of the routine is to conduct cell searches, so I think we’ll start with cell 8. Excuse me…

Inmate: I’ll just get my shoes, I’ll just get my shoes bro!

Hine: We’ll check your cell first and then you can have your shoes if you wanted your shoes. You should have had them on before you left the cell.

Hine: Stand back! Stand back!

Inmate: F*** man, come on brother! F***!

Hine: We’ll have a look in these shoes, shall we, and find out why he was so keen to get hold of the shoes…Well look at that – what have we got here? It looks like a cellphone, there’s something wrapped up in this gladwrap…

Hine: Just you!

Hine: Stand back, mister, stand back.

Hine: It’s nothing to do with you.

Hine: So we have found unauthorised items in your cell – namely a cellphone and also some drugs.

Inmate: Oh what the f***! That’s not my stuff, Miss!

Hine: Alright? OK, thank you.

Inmate: Oh f***!

Hine: Leave the cell.

Clinton: The rest of the cell comes up clean, but abusing staff will have serious repercussions for this prisoner, and his misconduct will be investigated further leading to disciplinary action.

Hine: Corrections officers are front line and they’re on the floor with the prisoners on a daily basis, so we cop everything, absolutely.

Clinton: Dylan Phillips is a career criminal specialising in car theft for a gang and he's halfway through a five-year sentence. But Corrections is not just about punishment, it's about rehabilitation and reintegrating an offender back into society.

Hine: What sort of family support do you have out there?

Dylan: Um…not a lot, well mum died a few years back and I haven’t talked to my dad in 15 years or something.

Hine: Well that’s a shame

Dylan: Well I’ve been a sh*t my whole life, you know? He won’t want to talk to me.

Hine: You know nothing’s worse than not having contact with your family. From my own experience I didn’t see my dad or talk to him for a long time and then I find out he’s passed on, so it’s not a good place to be.

Dylan: Yeah, well I do have some old contact details. Could you try and get in contact with him?

Hine: Yeah, if you’re able to give me the details, I can make the initial call.

Clinton: In this situation public safety is the first concern. So Hine needs to make the first contact with Dylan's dad.

Hine: So I just thought I would give you a call to see how you felt about speaking to your son.

Clinton: Dylan's dad is willing to see him, but because of Dylan's history of bad behaviour, Hine needs to get sign-off from her manager, principle corrections officer Paul Dickenson.

Paul: There’s a few hurdles we have go through first. What’s his misconduct history like?

Hine: He incurred a few incidents and misconducts 12 months ago.

Paul: But nothing in the last six months?

Hine: No, nothing. He’s actually been very compliant in the unit.

Paul: Tell the prisoner that if there’s any misconducts between now and visit happening then I will just cancel it straight away – that’s a given, and also to let him know that this wouldn’t have been approved if his behavior had continued the way it was 12 months ago. So it’s a little bit of a reward for him – let him know that.

Hine: Sure, thank you. Alright, great. OK bye bye.

Paul: Thanks, bye.

Steve: Miss, can I speak to you please?

Hine: Oh hi Steve!

Clinton: While Hine is on the way to tell Dylan the good news, she is stopped by prisoner Steven Ranui who is anxious to talk.

Hine: What’s the problem?

Steve: I need to talk to you about my accommodation and for my release has fallen through and I don’t want to have any accommodation right now. And I need your help now, please.

Hine: I enjoy working with prisoners. I enjoy the challenge that’s involved in dealing with a lot of their issues. Helping to get them on the right track.

Clinton: Hine will work on Steven’s problems with his case manager. And the next day, she oversees Dylan’s special visit from his dad.

Dylan’s Dad: Hello son.

Dylan: Hi dad.

Dylan’s Dad: How are ya?

Clinton: But, a lot of time has passed, and there is no way of knowing which way this visit will go.

Dylan: So what have you been doing for the last 15 years?

Hine: Well, I’ve got to be honest about that – we can’t rehabilitate all of them. It doesn’t happen. We’ve got some pretty hardcore people in here that will come in here, play the game, and go back to the “same old, same old” out there, and then they’ll be back again before you know it.

Dylan: I was thinking I want to get into something that would, you know, benefit me – get me some skills for when I do get out so I don’t have to mix in those same circles and end up back where I always have been

Dylan’s dad: Yeah, looking back, I do recall – and I know it’s been a while – but when you were a young fella you used to like knocking around with me and helping me out at the timber yard and banging the hammer around…

Dylan: Yeah, I think I do…

Hine: If were able to work with prisoners and mentor them and hopefully assist them in making good choices, I think I’d feel quite pleased about the fact that I’ve done my job well and to see them get released and make good decisions out there.

Hine: Hey, Miss, do you think you could get me into doing some carpentry?

Clinton: For Dylan, the visit, organised by Hine, has triggered him to make a change in his life.

Hine: Sure, I’ll put the referral in and get back to you, OK?

Dylan: Yeah, that would be awesome, thanks.

Hine: When I see people change like that I do feel quite proud, but also I feel quite successful too, from the point of view that I’ve assisted them to get there.

Hirini: From now on I reckon I will look at a prisoner differently. Being a corrections officer? Communication is pretty intense but I reckon it’s a pretty cool job.

Clinton: There are no specific qualifications to enter this career, but life experience and good communication skills are essential. Because of this, Corrections don't consider people straight from high school. You must also be physically fit, have a clean driver licence, a first aid certificate, and no criminal convictions within the last 20 years. If accepted, all training is given to you on the job by the Department of Corrections while you are earning. Corrections officers progress in their careers to more senior roles as they gain experience.

Clinton: Coming up, will case manager Conan Manina be able to fix Steven Ranui’s accommodation problem, and get Dylan into the carpentry course that could turn his life around?

Entry requirements

To become a corrections officer you need to have:

  • a current, full driver's licence
  • a clean criminal conviction record
  • a First Aid Certificate
  • the right to work in New Zealand for at least two years.

You must also pass:

  • medical, psychological and physical fitness tests
  • communication and problem-solving tests
  • drug tests
  • credit checks.

The Department of Corrections provides training for new corrections officers, which includes workplace and classroom learning. Frontline Start induction training takes three weeks. Full corrections officer training takes 12 months.

The Vulnerable Children Act 2014 means that if you have certain serious convictions, you can’t be employed in a role where you are responsible for, or work alone with, children.

Secondary education

There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a corrections officer. However, languages, social studies and te reo Māori are useful.

Personal requirements

Corrections officers need to be:

  • good at communicating with a range of people, including prisoners and their families and friends
  • dependable and honest
  • mature, non-judgemental and fair in their dealings with prisoners
  • observant, alert and accurate
  • able to follow orders 
  • able to work well under pressure 
  • able to remain positive in difficult situations
  • assertive and able to use their initiative
  • interested in helping others.

Useful experience

Useful experience for corrections officers includes:

  • work as a probation officer
  • community work
  • social work
  • coaching experience.

Physical requirements

Corrections officers need to be fit, healthy and strong as they spend a lot of time on their feet and the job can be physically demanding. They also have need to have good hearing.

Find out more about training

Department of Corrections
recruit@corrections.govt.nz - www.corrections.govt.nz
Check out related courses

What are the chances of getting a job?

More prisoners mean increased demand for corrections officers

Demand for corrections officers is expected to continue growing due to an increase in prisoners. The number of prisoners in New Zealand increased by 20% between 2015 and 2018.

There are currently more than 3800 correction officers in New Zealand.

Most corrections officers employed by Department of Corrections

Most corrections officers are employed by the Department of Corrections. 

Serco New Zealand employs corrections officers for the Kohuora Auckland South Corrections Facility.

Sources

  • Christian,H, 'Prisons across the Country are Short Hundreds of Staff, Corrections Reveals', 25 June 2018, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Cowlishaw, S, 'Budget 2018: Waikeria Prison on Hold', 17 May 2018, (www.newsroom.co.nz).
  • Davison, I, 'Budget 2018: Corrections Get Boost to Cope With Fast-Growing Prison Population', 17 May 2018, (www.nzherald.co.nz).
  • Department of Corrections, 'Briefing to the Incoming Minister 2017', 2017, (www.corrections.govt.nz).
  • Department of Corrections website, accessed May 2018, (www.corrections.govt.nz).
  • Fisher, D, 'Andrew Little: Longer Sentences, More Prisoners – it Doesn't Work and it Has to Stop', 22 February 2018, (www.nzherald.co.nz),
  • Gattey, M, 'Government Aims to Cut Prison Population and Fix "Abnormal" System', 29 March 2018, (www.stuff.co.nz).
  • Ministry of Justice, 'Justice Sector Forecast 2011–2021, Forecast Update', March 2015, accessed May 2018, (www.justice.govt.nz).
  • Rakuraku,S, manager recruitment administration, Department of Corrections, careers.govt.nz interview, July 2018.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)

Progression and specialisations

Corrections officers may progress to work as senior corrections officers, principal corrections officers and unit managers.

Correction officer may also move into jobs in management or policy at Department of Corrections or Ministry of Justice.

Perez Mupiu

Correction officers, like Perez Mupiu, motivate prisoners to make changes to their behaviour.

Last updated 6 November 2018