Penologists specialize in prisoner rehabilitation and correctional facility management. As a result, they typically work all day with prison inmates. Penologists work closely with prison guards to prevent prison fights, drug dealing, violence, escape attempts, and antisocial behavior. Penologists are employed at municipal, state, and federal prisons in low and maximum security settings.

Duties and Responsibilities
Penologists develop rehabilitation programs and work closely with prison inmates to reduce recidivism rates and teach inmates how to live productively. Most programs developed by penologists are indented to teach inmates personal responsibility, effective stress and anger management strategies, and substance abuse prevention methods. Likewise, penologists oversee the implementation of inmate treatment and prison management programs. Penologists are also responsible for inspecting facilities and checking prison cells for contraband.

Penologists in management roles recommend new prison policies. For example, some penologists coordinate drug testing programs to prevent violence. Penologists collaborate with architects to design floor plans and schematics best suited for inmate needs and effective facility operation. Penologists often work directly with inmates, probation officers and prison guards, and criminologists.

Penologists must thoroughly understand how the prison system functions. Additionally, they must possess excellent interpersonal, writing, and speaking skills. Penologists must be effective leaders and self-motivated. They should also be mentally alert and physically fit since they work in correctional facilities with convicted criminals.

Education and Training
Most penologists hold bachelor's degrees in criminal justice, psychology, justice administration, or related fields. Penologists in training usually take classes in punishment techniques and goals, criminal psychology, criminology, prison management, and U.S. prison history. Aspiring penologists will also learn how to manage budgets, defend themselves, communicate effectively with others, and handle firearms.

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Job Outlook

As crime continues to rise and more public money is spent to address prison overcrowding, penologists will continue to be in demand. Job growth for penologists will be spurred by mandatory sentencing laws, fewer opportunities for parole, and rising crime.

How to become a penologist

  • Earn a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, psychology, or justice administration
  • Identify the facility where you'd prefer to work and contact the management team to learn about internship opportunities and application instructions

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