Planning, organizing and directing activities for local, regional or state correctional facilities are a jail superintendent’s responsibility. These professionals carry out their work in accordance with state laws, local rules and regulations, and established procedures. A bachelor’s degree program in criminal justice can be the first step toward a career as a jail superintendent.

Job Outlook for Jail Superintendents

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts steady employment growth for correctional officers, including jail superintendents, over the coming years. New job openings will occur as mandatory sentencing guidelines increase both the number of prisoners and the demand for jail superintendents.

Job Duties

Jail superintendents typically oversee and direct jail operations, including supervising personnel, inmates, security, safety, food and health services, and visitation procedures. As personnel administrators, they also assign work duties and schedules for corrections officers and conduct staff performance evaluations.

In addition to their supervisory responsibilities, jail superintendents must ensure that inmates’ legal rights, health and hygiene requirements, and medical needs are met. These professionals may conduct inspections of the facility, grounds, kitchen and health service areas to ensure all legal, safety, security and control mechanisms are in place.

Another aspect of a jail superintendent’s job is acting as facility administrator, which may entail managing budgets and expenditures, overseeing work release and educational programs, maintaining records, investigating incidents and filing reports.

Jail superintendents may be required to fulfill job duties as varied as establishing effective management procedures and policies; interviewing and hiring corrections officers, administrative staff and maintenance personnel; interacting with federal, state and local agencies to coordinate inmate services; and reducing the facility’s exposure to liability.

Most jail superintendents have their own office. However, they typically move about the facility during their work day, and may spend a lot of time on their feet. Some positions may require travel. A 40-hour week is typical, but overtime could be required.

Jail Superintendent Salary Potential

According to BLS reports, the average annual income for first-line supervisors of correctional officers – including jail superintendents – was $59,810 as of May 2009. The middle 50% earned between $42,870 and $73,500. Salaries for the lowest 10% were around $34,640 while the highest 10% earned in excess of $90,140. Recent bachelor’s degree graduates will typically start out at the lower end of the scale and move up in salary with experience and education. Related work experience is often required to move into this type of supervisory role.

Education and Training

Most jail superintendent positions require at least a high school diploma or equivalent. Positions with the Federal Bureau of Prisons require a bachelor’s degree, and many state and local correctional facilities give preference to applicants with a four-year degree. Relevant work experience is also valuable, and can include law enforcement work or military service. Some agencies may require jail superintendent candidates to pass a background check.

The path to a jail superintendent career can begin with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Coursework typically includes law enforcement systems, introduction to criminal justice, criminal investigation and research methods in criminal justice.

Employers can be confident that graduates of a criminal justice program are able to:

  • Analyze crime trends, victimology and crime prevention.
  • Implement proven techniques and best practices in corrections.
  • Exhibit a global perspective of criminal justice, from investigation and arrest, to court and prisons.
  • Understand key legal concepts, including due process, use of force, and search and seizure.
  • Leverage advanced skills and knowledge to succeed in a jail superintendent career.

Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use tuition assistance to further your education.

Do You Envision a Career as a Jail Superintendent?

A jail superintendent position requires a variety of skills and attributes, including knowledge of correctional and management principles, the ability to maintain effective relationships with people from all backgrounds, and excellent written and verbal communications. Leadership abilities, good judgment and physical fitness are also essential in this line of work. If you possess these attributes and the desire to contribute to public safety, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice could put you well on your way to a rewarding career as a jail superintendent.

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