Prison officer

What they do

Prison officers are responsible for the operation of prisons and the custody, care and supervision of prisoners. They patrol assigned areas of the prison, inspecting doors, gates and windows to ensure they are secure and observing and maintaining the behaviour of inmates. They also conduct searches of inmates and cells for drugs, weapons and other illegal or prohibited items. When new prisoners arrive, prison officers carry out admittance procedures, which may include issuing prisoners with uniforms, briefing them on prison rules and filling in necessary paperwork. They also work with prisoners to develop a rehabilitation plan. Some prison officers may also assist in the delivery of vocational training. 

Working conditions

There are 14 prisons and 6 prisoner work camps in Western Australia which prison officers may work at. Six of these prisons are located in the Perth metropolitan area, with the remaining seven spread throughout regional areas around the state. Prisons run 24-hours a day, every day of the year. Some prison officers may be able to work regular business hours, Monday to Friday, however, they can also be required to work in shifts that will include working nights, and on weekends and public holidays. Prisons have strict security procedures that must be followed, both to keep inmates secure and for the protection of prison staff and visitors. The specific requirements and level of security will vary, depending on the particular facility.

Tools and technologies

The specific technology and equipment used at prisons may vary depending on the particular security requirements. However, most prison officers will use two-way radios to communicate around the prison. There will also be video cameras and alarms to monitor prisoners and alert staff of any issues. Upon commencing employment, a prison officer will be issued a uniform, in some cases they may also be issued personal protection equipment such as a taser, oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray (pepper spray) and/or an expandable baton. They will also need basic computer and word processing skills to write reports and keep records. 

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a prison officer with the Department of Justice you must pass the recruitment process and complete the entry-level training program.

Applicants must be Australian or New Zealand citizens, or permanent residents.

The selection assessment includes a selection panel interview, identification and reference checks, criminal history and integrity screening, and medical, psychological and fitness assessments.

To be employed as a prison officer you will require a current unrestricted ‘C’ class driver’s licence and a current Provide First Aid qualification.

Successful applicants are then required to complete an 11-week paid entry level training program. This is the first component of a nine-month probationary period.

Following completion of the entry level training program, graduates continue learning on the job as probationary prison officers while completing the nationally recognised Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial).

Probationary prison officers who successfully complete their training and probation can be recommended for permanency.

Contact the Department of Justice for more information