Minors who have broken the law and are considered to be dangerous to society or at risk for continuing to commit serious crimes are generally housed in juvenile detention facilities. A juvenile detention officer is a person who supervises and observes the behavior of these detainees and helps ensure that they are held in a safe manner, but also secured against escape from the detention center.
Typically, juvenile detention officers help maintain good order and discipline as detainees are escorted from housing areas to classrooms, meal areas, showers, and recreational areas of the center. The detention center will typically have safeguards and strict protocols for behavior and conduct throughout each of its areas, and the detention officer is responsible for enforcing these regulations.
Working in a juvenile detention facility presents a unique set of challenges as compared to a standard jail or prison. Those housed at a juvenile center are typically still developing maturity and cognitive abilities, and may react in ways that are unpredictable which could endanger their own safety, as well as the safety of other residents and workers. Juvenile detention center officers must be trained in understanding the thought processes of young adults and extremely observant of fluctuations in their moods or behavior.
To work as a juvenile detention officer, a person must possess at least a high school diploma and attend a juvenile-specific training academy program; federal juvenile detention facilities may also require an associate's or undergraduate degree in criminal psychology. After post-secondary training, a prospective detention officer must pass a background check and accreditation test prior to being hired in most jurisdictions. Because of the 24-hour nature of detention centers, officers should be prepared to work shifts that can run mornings, days, evenings, or even overnight. Some may be required to work weekends and/or holidays as well, depending on the employer.
Juvenile Detention Officer Tasks
Develop and maintain effective working relationships with juveniles and coworkers with a focus on patience and diplomacy.
Document appropriate interactions and communicate them with supervisors.
Respond quickly and calmly in emergency situations with the ability to perform CPR and First Aid.
Enact and support facility policies while maintaining situational awareness.