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As one of the few fields available that offers individuals the real opportunity to serve the community, keep other citizens safe from harm, and truly change the lives of people who have lost their way, corrections is a critical component of the criminal justice system that provides dynamic and rewarding career opportunities. Whether individuals are interested in working within institutional correctional facilities, such as prisons and jails, or community correctional arenas, including probation and parole services, the corrections field creates a high demand for those with educational or training backgrounds in mental health services. If you are interested in gaining employment within corrections institutions, the following are the most common gratifying types of counseling jobs available.
Also known as correctional treatment specialists or simply case managers, correctional counselors fulfill generalist counseling positions to work with inmates to meet their rehabilitation goals to prevent relapse. Correctional counselors are typically responsible for evaluating offenders for determining the best course of treatment through questionnaires or psychological tests, providing inmates with resources to aid in rehabilitation, arranging counseling treatment programs, supervising offenders for progress towards discussed goals, and writing reports to cover inmates’ history for the appropriate parole board. Before an inmate is released from the correctional facility, these counselors also often conduct meetings with the inmates as well as their families and friends to strengthen their support network beyond bars.
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Substance Abuse Counselor
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 29 percent of convicted inmates report using illegal drugs at the time of their offense and more than half report drinking alcohol when they committed the crime. Therefore, it is no surprise there is a high need for qualified substance abuse counselors within correctional institutions to counsel offenders who have alcoholism or other forms of addiction. In prison or jail settings, substance abuse counselors are typically responsible for evaluating inmates’ mental and physical health, helping inmates develop treatment plans, developing skills or behaviors needed to recover from the addiction, educating on addiction to help foster strategies to cope with the problem, and referring offenders to community programs or support groups upon release.
Although career counselors most often work in private and public school settings, there are many positions available for vocational counselors to gain employment providing rehabilitation guidance services to inmates in prisons or other correctional institutions as well. Career counselors are vital for assisting offenders with the process of making career decisions and developing social skills needed to pursue a career or educational program upon release. In order to reduce recidivism, vocational counselors in corrections are responsible for helping inmates overcome behavioral or social problems through individual or group counseling, working with offenders to develop career skills, developing attainable career goals, evaluating abilities or interests through aptitude testing, and creating strategies to help inmates succeed as fully functioning citizens for release back into society.
Overall, working a counseling career in correctional institutions requires a tremendous amount of dedication, integrity, perseverance, and commitment to working with individuals who have found their way into the justice system. For trained counselors with strong communication, critical thinking, decision making, emotional stability, interpersonal, and organizational skills, the job outlook in corrections institutions is expected to be very promising by growing faster than average at 18 percent before 2020. Therefore, it is an excellent time for qualified counselors to assume these correctional positions for a highly gratifying career helping inmates assume more positive roles in their communities.