How to become a prison counselor

Written by marlon trotsky
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How to become a prison counselor
Aloof, unapproachable prison counsellors are less effective than their more empathetic counterparts. (prison image by Albert Lozano from

Prison counselling is an often overlooked, yet vital component of the corrections process. Counsellors implement treatment programs and initiatives inside Department of Corrections-run facilities. They must be able to identify prisoners for a specific program, such as a drug-abuse group. They will often visit with the prisoners, and must keep meticulous records of all of their interactions. To enter this field, earn the proper undergraduate degree, learn the necessary counselling techniques and bolster your communications skills.

Skill level:

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  1. 1

    Earn an undergraduate degree in one of the following majors, according to the Michigan Civil Service Commission website: criminal justice; correctional administration; criminology; psychology; sociology; social work; counselling and guidance; child development; school social work; social work administration; family relations; human services; and theology. Applicants with a degree in another field will still be considered if they have at least one year of experience working with the Department of Corrections.

  2. 2

    Learn individual and group techniques, rules and regulations and other corrections treatment objectives. Have excellent communication skills, as you will be dealing with attorneys, prisoners, their families and other members of the correctional staff. Stay up-to-date on prevailing industry trends. Possess an understanding of social work concepts and theories in the correctional facility context.

  3. 3

    Apply for a position at a correctional facility. Education and experience will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Ensure you have a clean record, because the DOC will not hire someone with a felony, under the provisions of the Public Acts of 1996. Search the USAJobs website for openings in your area or use a meta-jobs search engine.

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