Penology refers to the study of convict rehabilitation or the management of prisons or jails. Penologists spend their time working in prisons with prisoners. They also help to maintain prison security by working to prevent disturbances including assaults, escapes, antisocial behavior and other disruptions. Penologists may work at the federal, state or local levels and can find employment in maximum- or low-security environments.
Penologists are primarily responsible for assisting with the rehabilitation of incarcerated offenders so that they can effectively reintegrate into society. Additionally, they develop or advise on empowerment/prisoner self-help programs to help prisoners work through their criminal tendencies. Programs designed by penologists may include anger management or substance abuse programs. Penologists also develop and implement prison management strategies along with inmate treatment programs that govern how prisoners are treated while incarcerated. In addition, penologists search prisoners for contraband and regularly inspect prison facilities.
In some career positions, penologists are required to make recommendations that form prison policy. For example, they organize and implement activities intended to prevent disorder in the prison environment, such as drug testing. Penologists are involved in prison architecture, working with prison architects to develop schematics and floor plans best suited to meet the needs of both prisoners as well as prison management. Penologist frequently work directly with prisoners as well as other criminal justice professionals including prison guards, probation officers, parole officers and criminologists.
Penologists are required to have an intimate understanding of the corrections system. They also must have strong written, verbal and interpersonal communication skills. Penologists should be self-directed and well-developed leadership skills. As Penologist often work in prisons near and with incarcerated offenders they should be physically fit and alert.
Penologists typically have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant area such as psychology, criminal justice, or justice administration. Courses in penology cover topics such as punishment goals and techniques used in American prisons as well as criminal psychology, which covers the causes of miscreant behavior. Additionally, students may study the history of U.S. prisons, reasons for incarcerations, how long inmates stay in prison and the lifestyle of offenders. Students learn how to address prison overcrowding issues and work with prison budgets, and they learn about self-defense, legal restrictions, firearms proficiency and interpersonal relations.
Penologists will remain in strong demand as crime rates continue to rise and more resources are dedicated to the issue of overcrowded prison populations and the need for more effective rehabilitation programs. The positive job outlook for penologists is due in part to population growth, rising incarceration rates and legislation demanding longer prison sentences and minimum parole opportunities.
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