Penology, a subtype of sociology, is the study of management of prisons and jails and of rehabilitating convicts. Penologists are sociologists who spend most of their time working inside prisons with prisoners. In addition, penologists will aid prison security by helping to prevent disturbances such as escapes, assaults, and other antisocial behavior that can result in disruptions. Local, state, and federal prisons all employ penologists. A penologist can find a job in both low security and maximum security environments.
Responsibilities and Duties of a Penologist
The main responsibility of a penologist is to help rehabilitate individuals that have been incarcerated so they can be integrated back into society. In addition, a penologist will develop and offer advice on self-help programs for prisoners so that the prisoner can work through their criminal habits. Some of these programs may include substance abuse programs and anger management programs.
In addition, penologists may develop management strategies for prisons along with treatment programs for the inmates that will govern how each prisoner is treated while they are incarcerated. They will also inspect the prison facilities on a regular basis and conduct prisoner searches for contraband.
There are some penologists that hold positions where they are required to make recommendations that will be used to form the policies of the prison. For example, they may develop and implement an activity that is intended to prevent the prison environment from becoming disorderly, such as testing for drugs. This position requires an individual to work with the architects of the prison to develop floor plans and schematics that are suited to meet the needs of the prison management as well as the prisoners. Penologists are expected to work closely with other criminal justice professionals such as criminologists, parole officers, probation officers, and prison guards.
Penologists need to be extremely familiar with the corrections system. In addition, they must have strong verbal, interpersonal communication, and verbal skills. They also must have great leadership qualities. This position requires an individual to work directly with individuals that are incarcerated so they should be extremely alert and physically fit as well.
In order to become a penologist an individual should have a bachelor’s degree in an area such as justice administration, criminal justice, or psychology. During a penologist training program a person can expect to take courses in criminal psychology. These courses will cover the techniques and punishment goals that are used in the American prison system including the reasons that individuals are incarcerated and the average amount of time a criminal spends in prison as well as the prison lifestyle.
In addition, a person that is interested in becoming a penologist will need to learn how to work within the budget of the prison and also ways to address the issues of overcrowding.
For those that are interested in this profession should first obtain a bachelor’s degree in psychology, criminal justice, or justice administration. While studying for the degree it is recommended that you contact the authorities of a prison or area where you wish to work and obtain an internship to gain the experience needed for this position.
Salary & Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2013, Penologists (a subtype of Sociologists) earned an average annual salary of $65,770 (State Government). Projected job growth is 15% to 21% over the next 10 years.