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Law Enforcement/ Criminal Justice Job Information

Correctional Officer - Frequently Asked Questions:


 

 


ABOUT THE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES

The South Dakota State Penitentiary, located in Sioux Falls, was originally built as a federal prison for the Dakota Territory in 1881. The prison has been expanded and modernized through the years and a new separate prison and trustee unit, known as the Jameson Annex, was completed in 1993. Today, the Penitentiary, which is the only maximum security prison in the state, houses nearly 1,400 inmates. We have over 400 state employees working on this campus.

The South Dakota Women's Prison is part of the Solem Public Safety Center in Pierre. It is a unique facility that houses a prison, state corrections offices, and law enforcement agencies of the state, county and city governments. In 1995, legislation was introduced that authorized the construction of a new women's prison in Pierre. After the passage of the bill, the idea was pursued of joining resources with local governments to best utilize the new facility.

The Mike Durfee State Prison is located on the campus of the former University of South Dakota at Springfield. The 1984 Legislature closed USD/S and authorized the Board of Charities and Corrections to establish the correctional facility. Springfield State Prison opened in December of 1984 when the female inmates from the Women's Correctional Facility in Yankton were transferred to the new institution. Male inmates began transferring to the institution in January 1985.

The Rapid City Community Work Center and the Yankton Community Work Center are minimum-security male facilities under the direction of the Mike Durfee State Prison and the Warden.

New employees typically begin as Correctional Officers. Experience as a Correctional Officer is essential for understanding the operation of the facilities and to be assigned greater responsibilities. There are a wide variety of promotional opportunities available to officers, primarily in the areas of security, unit management, and administration. In addition, other state law enforcement agencies look favorably upon experience in corrections.   

You may have a lot of questions regarding Correctional Officer positions. The information included in this brochure should answer most of your questions. However, if you have additional questions, feel free to contact our Human Resource Office at 605.773.3148 between 8 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday.   

Working at a correctional facility can be a challenging opportunity and a rewarding experience. We hope that you will consider a career with us.

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REQUIREMENTS & SELECTION

What are the requirements to qualify for a Correctional Officer position?
There are no specific education or experience requirements. Although education or experience in law enforcement or criminal justice is very beneficial, new officers are trained in most of the skills they will need to do the job. However, to be considered for a position, applicants must possess certain basic skills, including the ability to:

  • Observe and recall surroundings and events
  • Communicate information clearly, concisely, and accurately
  • Read, write, understand, and apply written instructions in English
  • Count accurately and transcribe count data on paper
  • Maintain focus and remain positive and composed during a crisis
  • Make sound decisions

What are the physical demands of the job?
Officers need the ability to:

  • Differentiate sounds to understand verbal directives and respond to audio signals
  • See close and distant objects and differentiate colors
  • Perform duties in enclosed and confined spaces
  • Endure prolonged periods of time standing, walking, and climbing stairs
  • Perform duties in environmental extremes
  • Respond to emergencies quickly, climb stairs, and use physical force to subdue violent or resisting inmates
  • Undergo training to operate firearms, two-way radios, restraining devices, and OC spray.
  • Perform tasks with constant physical and mental alertness

Are there any other requirements?
Yes. You must be at least 18 years old and any offer of employment is conditional upon passing a drug screening test and a pre-employment physical before you begin training. Also, a criminal background investigation will be conducted before a job offer is made. An arrest/conviction will not necessarily bar employment. All felony convictions or misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence or drug use may prohibit you from working at the facilities.

What characteristics are you looking for in the applicants you hire?
We are looking for individuals who are confident, assertive, independent, and act professionally. Also, officers must use good judgment, react skillfully and maintain composure in emergency situations, maintain constant awareness of their surroundings, work cooperatively with others as part of a team, be motivated and follow-though with work assignments, and communicate effectively. Physical size and gender have nothing to do with whether an individual will be an effective officer.

We hire those individuals that best meet the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed for successful performance of the duties of a Correctional Officer.  We have a limited number of positions to fill based on current and expected vacancies and can only select the individuals that best suit our needs.

Can I be hired if I know or am related to an inmate at the facility?
Yes, it is possible, but depends upon the specific circumstances.  You will be asked about your relationship during the interview.

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POSTS, SCHEDULES & SHIFTS

What are the primary responsibilities of a Correctional Officer?
Each officer is assigned a post, or a specific job. Common duties in most posts include observing, supervising, and accounting for assigned inmates; maintaining logs, preparing reports, and making written records of incidents and rule infractions; escorting and transporting inmates; inspecting and searching cells, inmates, and visitors; and responding to crisis situations which may require running and climbing stairs. Officers operate specialized equipment such as two-way radios and firearms. 

What are the posts? 
We have a wide variety of posts in various areas such as control rooms, cell halls, visit rooms, guard towers, and the recreation facilities. Posts are usually permanent until you apply for a new one. We announce vacant posts weekly to consider staff requests to move to a new shift or post within the facilities. Requests to transfer to other correctional facilities in the state are also considered.

What type of schedule will I work?
The schedule is based on a 10 week cycle. The days an officer works rotates weekly and officers receive every other weekend off. Throughout the 10 week cycle, officers will receive a 5 day (Wed. – Sun.), 4 day (Thur. – Sun.), and 3 day (Fri. – Sun.) weekend as well as 2 additional Sat. – Sun. weekends.

What shifts will I work?
Initially, most Correctional Officers are hired for the late shift (1:45 PM - 10:15 PM) or the recreation shift (12:30 PM - 9 PM on weekdays and 8:30 AM – 9 PM on weekends). Occasionally, new officers may be needed for early shifts (5:45 AM - 2:15 PM), day shifts (7:15 AM - 3:45 PM) or night shifts (10 PM - 6 AM). Weekday shifts are 8 hours and weekend shifts are 12 hours. Correctional Officers do not rotate shifts. However, corporals, sergeants, and lieutenants rotate shifts.

How are posts and schedules assigned to new officers?
When you complete training, the scheduling office will ask you your shift and days-off preferences, and assignments to currently vacant posts will be made based on where we feel you will perform the best, with consideration given to your preferences.

How long does it typically take for a new officer to get an early or day shift?
It depends on vacancies, seniority of other staff, and your ability to fill the post. No guarantees can be made, but historically new officers have been able to transfer to an early shift within one year.

Will I ever have to work night shifts?
Typically we have enough staff that wants to work night shifts. However, on occasion, you may be required to work a night shift.

Are all positions full-time?   
We only hire for full-time positions (40 hours/week). After six months, we may consider allowing an officer to work part-time under special circumstances. Officers are occasionally needed to work over-time. Hours physically worked over 40 within the pay week are paid at time and one half. 

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TRAINING

Is it necessary to have previous corrections or law enforcement experience?
No. However, prior experience in corrections or law enforcement is beneficial.

Will I be trained in everything I need to know?
Yes. You will receive three weeks of classroom training where you will learn the policies and procedures of the institution and various skills, such as the use of restraining devices, cell entry procedures, and shakedowns. There are four weeks of mentorship following Pre-service training. 

Is training paid?
Yes. Training for the first three weeks is from 8 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. Training is held on-site at our training academy, located next to the Jameson Annex parking lot.

Is there a probationary period?
Yes. You will be required to complete a probationary period of 1040 hours, which usually can be completed within six months. During this period you can be terminated for any reason if we do not feel that the job is right for you. After successful completion of this period, you will become a Civil Service employee.

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SAFETY

How dangerous is a Correctional Officer position? 
Historically, we have had relatively few injuries on the job. We take every precaution to make our facility a safe place to work. However, as with all public safety positions, there is potential for serious injury.

How much inmate contact will I have?
Some posts, such as control rooms, typically involve minimal inmate contact.  Officers that work in the cell halls or in the recreation yard work next to a large number of inmates throughout the day. 

Do officers carry weapons?
Typically, officers assigned to guard towers, roving patrol, and transports carry weapons. Officers that work inside the prison do not carry any weapons, but may be required to be armed on an occasional basis as needed. All officers are thoroughly trained on how to use our weapons.

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PAY

How much will I be paid?
All officers start out at $15.50/hour ($14 base + $1.50), regardless of their qualifications. You will receive an additional $1.00/hour for hours worked on the weekend. After successful completion of a six-month (1040 hours) probationary period, you will receive a modest increase. Currently in policy, officers are eligible to receive a 5% base pay increase after one-year of service and again at two-years of service. In addition, the legislature annually determines whether to award cost-of-living and movement-to-midpoint (of pay grade) pay increases to state employees.  

How often will I get paid?
Bi-monthly, on the 1st and 16th of each month.

How much can I expect to earn?
There are no guarantees with pay increases, but assuming an annual 3% cost-of-living and a 2.5% movement-to-midpoint base pay increase, within two years an officer could expect to earn around $36,000 annually. Keep in mind that South Dakota does not have a state income tax and we have a low cost-of-living relative to most other states.

How much will I be paid if I am promoted?
You may receive a 5% increase in base pay. Your pay must at least be at the minimum of the salary range of the class you are promoted to, so you may receive a larger increase.

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APPLICATION PROCESS

How do I apply?
Go to the Bureau of Human Resources website: www.bhr.sd.gov. Click on “State Government Jobs” on the left side of the page. Click on “All Open Positions” on the right side of the page. Under the search option “Category” select “Corrections” and then click “Search.” All Correctional Officer job openings can be found on that page.

Who will receive my application once I submit it?
Your submitted application will be sent to the Human Resources Recruiter at the facility to be reviewed. You will be contacted by the Human Resources Recruiter to set up a testing date for the position. Feel free to contact Human Resources at any time regarding the status of your application. 

What are the steps of the application process?
Our application process consists of several steps.
  • All applicants are first required to pass a written aptitude test.
  • Interviews are scheduled after the applicant has successfully completed the written aptitude test.
  • After the interview, the Human Resources office will:
    • contact any references provided.
    • complete a background check.
Once all of these steps are complete, the applicant will be notified of a hiring decision.


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ORGANIZATION STRUCTURE

What types of non-security positions are there at the correctional facilities?
Unit Coordinators, Case Managers, Unit Managers, Teachers, Building Maintenance, and Prison Shop Foremen (garment, printing/bookbindery, upholstery, carpentry, and machine shop). There are numerous opportunities at other Department of Corrections agencies, such as Parole Agent, Wellness Instructor, Juvenile Corrections Agent, Youth Supervisor, and Youth Counselor.

What is the command structure?
The Warden is responsible for the entire facility. The Deputy Warden, reports directly to the Warden and is responsible for the security of the institution. There are also Associate Wardens, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants, Sergeants, Corporals, and correctional officers.      

What other law enforcement opportunities are available with the State of South Dakota?
Trooper with the Division of Highway Patrol; Special Agent with the Division of Criminal Investigation; Patrol Officer with the state universities and the capitol complex; and Probation Officers with the Unified Judicial System. 

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UNIFORMS, MEALS, GROOMING, ETC.

Are uniforms provided?
Yes, you will receive uniforms during training. You may trade in uniform items that need replacement. You will need to provide your own shoes or boots, which must be black in color. You will receive money annually to help defray the cost of replacing your footwear.

Are meals served?
Yes, lunch and supper are provided daily at a cost of $1.25 per meal. You may instead bring your own lunch or you may leave the facility for a half-hour lunch break.

What are the grooming requirements of an officer?
Male officers must be clean-shaven, with the exception of a neatly trimmed mustache, and hair cannot touch the top of the shirt collar. Male and female officers may not have visible body piercings, body rings or studs while on duty. One exception—women may wear earrings.

What are the addresses for the facilities?

  • South Dakota State Penitentiary, 1600 North Drive, Sioux Falls, SD 57117
  • South Dakota Women's Prison, 3200 East Highway 34, Pierre, SD 57501
  • Mike Durfee State Prison, 1412 Wood Street, Springfield, SD 57062


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RETIREMENT BENEFITS

RETIREMENT PLAN: The state matches your contribution of 8% of salary to the retirement plan, which is immediately portable to other retirement plans and you are fully vested at three years. This is a defined benefit plan, designed to replace 40%-60% of a career employee’s pay at retirement. Visit http://www.sdrs.sd.gov for more information.

SUPPLEMENTAL RETIREMENT PLAN: Similar to a “401K plan,” you may contribute tax-free dollars to a retirement savings account and pay no taxes on your investment earnings until withdrawal.

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PAID TIME-OFF

VACATION LEAVE: You receive 3 weeks of paid vacation leave each year, increasing to 4 weeks after 15 years of service.

HOLIDAY PAY:The State recognizes 10 legal holidays; additional holidays may be declared by the Governor.

SICK LEAVE: You will receive 14 days of sick leave per year (4.67 hours per bi-weekly pay period). There is no limit to the number of days you accrue throughout your career.  You may be eligible to be paid a portion of your unused sick leave balance when you leave state government.

PERSONAL LEAVE:  Up to 40 hours of your sick leave may be used each year for personal reasons, such as care of a sick child or death of an immediate family member.

MILITARY LEAVE: National Guard members may be paid for up to 120 hours of leave taken for training & weekend drills.

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HEALTH–RELATED, LIFE INSURANCE, AND DISABILITY BENEFITS

PAID HEALTH INSURANCE: You may choose between a network plan with co-payments instead of large deductibles or a traditional deductible plan. Visit ww.benefits.sd.gov for more information.   

DEPENDENT HEALTH INSURANCE AT GROUP RATES: Health insurance for your family can be purchased with tax-free dollars at group rates.

DENTAL, VISION, MAJOR INJURY, HOSPITAL PROTECTION, and DISABILITY:  You may purchase tax-free dental, vision, major injury, hospital income protection, and short-term disability insurance at group rates.

MEDICAL AND DAYCARE SPENDING ACCOUNTS:  You may participate in tax-free medical and day care spending accounts. These accounts typically save employees at least 23% of their day care costs and medical expenses. 

PAID LIFE INSURANCE:  You will be covered with $25,000 of term life insurance. You may purchase supplemental life insurance for up to five times your annual salary at low-cost tax-free group rates. A nominal amount of term life insurance may also be purchased to cover your dependents.   

PORTABLE SUPPLEMENTAL LIFE INSURANCE:  You may purchase life insurance at group rates that you can keep even after you are no longer employed with the state. 

PAID LONG-TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE:  You will receive paid long-term disability insurance after you have been with the state for three years.  If you are accidentally disabled while at work, you may be eligible for disability benefits immediately. 

PAID FAMILY SURVIVOR BENEFITS:  Your surviving spouse and children will receive 50% or more of your salary if you die while employed with the state.

EMPLOYEE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: The EAP is sponsored by the South Dakota State Employee Benefits Program, and provided by KEPRO Healthcare, as a free service offered to benefit eligible employees and dependents. Employees and dependents need to be benefit eligible but do not need to be enrolled in the South Dakota State Employee Health Plan to use EAP.

Visit: www.benefits.sd.gov for complete listing of benefits.

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OTHER BENEFITS

LONGEVITY PAY:  You will receive annual payments rewarding longevity after seven years with the state. 

PROFESSIONAL LIABILITY COVERAGE:  You are immediately covered with liability insurance with $1million of coverage per occurrence.   

REDUCED TUITION AT STATE UNIVERSITIES:  After one year of experience you may be eligible to have tuition expenses reduced by 50% for courses offered by state universities (subject to certain restrictions; no reductions at USDSU).  

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