How to become a Prison Warden

A prison warden has many important leadership responsibilities related to the incarceration of criminals in our criminal justice system. Not only are they responsible for every aspect of prisoners’ lives, they must also oversee staff to make sure they are carrying out their job duties properly.

If being a prison warden is a career you want to pursue, the right education and skills are a must. An individual in this position has to understand both the law enforcement and administrative sides to of the job. Some of the primary job duties include:

High School or GED
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Choosing and assigning staff in hiring and promotion.
  • Reviewing and evaluating staff performance.
  • Coordinating activities and directing employees’ work.
  • Controlling and supervising the movement, assignment and transfers of prisoners.
  • Monitoring the conditions and supervising the maintenance of the correctional facility.
  • Keeping records and reports on prisoners.
  • Establishing and maintaining security and control measures.
  • Developing procedures and implementing policies.
  • Planning and coordinating the activity of prisoners, including their leisure and sports activities.
  • Reviewing the written complaints of prisoners and interviewing them when necessary.
  • Reviewing resumes and interviewing and hiring for open positions.
  • Supervising the acclimation of new inmates.
  • Developing and implementing plans on evaluation and treatment of inmates.
  • Reviewing proposed legislation and updating staff on policy changes.
  • Creating and carrying out budgets for things related to the prison.

Prison wardens wear many hats, so the above list is not exhaustive. Wardens have a duty to perform these tasks as well as other related tasks as they are assigned.

Steps to Become a Prison Warden

Get a college degree. The job requirements for a prison warden differ from state to state. Most places prefer you to have an Associates, Bachelors or Masters degree in Criminology, Criminal Justice or another related field from an accredited college.

Even if a degree is not mandatory for the position, having one will give you a better chance of landing a job as a prison warden. The higher the level of education, the better your chances are. In addition, since the job will require you to be hands on with administrative tasks, taking a few elective courses in business or administration will be helpful.

Get some work-related experience. If you are lucky, you may be able to land a job as a prison warden based solely on your education. However, most people don’t land this position right out of college. You will be a better candidate for the job of a warden if you have some hands-on experience in law enforcement.

Try working as a corrections officer, probation officer, criminologist, investigator or police officer. Being experienced in one of these fields will give you an advantage once you start to pursue a job as a warden. You may also find it useful to have some hands-on experience in a managerial or administrative position, even if it’s in a field outside of law enforcement.

Stay out of trouble. The Department of Corrections won’t even consider hiring someone who has a criminal record. Before you get hired, you must pass a background check, drug test and polygraph test.

Being a prison warden is stressful and dangerous. You must truly enjoy working in a corrections environment and rehabilitating prisoners to thrive. The warden’s office is located inside the correctional facility, so you will frequently have direct contact with felons.

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