Can You Work in a Prison With a Misdemeanor?

Our website is supported by our users. We sometimes earn affiliate links when you click through the affiliate links on our website.

If you have already done your time and been released from incarceration, would you want to work in a prison? Well, that is obviously a personal decision. However, many who have been through the legal system make exactly that choice.

Why would they do that, and can they even get a job there? Maybe not with a felony, but perhaps with a misdemeanor. Let’s take a look at this possibility.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following:

  • Reasons to Work in a Prison
  • Types of Prisons
  • Jobs in a Prison
  • Requirements to Work in a Prison
  • Is There a Background Check?
  • Do Misdemeanors Disqualify You?
  • Meeting the Challenge

Reasons to Work in a Prison 

Beyond just getting a job, those who seek work in a prison setting often have specific reasons for pursuing this. Here we will consider some of these reasons. 

First, working in prison always presents a challenge. There is always something going on, so it will not be a boring job.  

The prison population is an underserved area. Not everyone wants to work in a prison due to the needs this group has in terms of mental and physical health that often go unaddressed.

Then, working in a prison provides a community benefit.  Those who are incarcerated will be released eventually. Having a job there can give you the opportunity to help them get ready to return into society.  

You can also serve as a positive role model to many who lack that. Also, you get a chance to perform a civic duty in helping inmates complete their sentence.  

Finally, there is job security along with benefits and salary increases for working there.  

Types of Prisons

Prisons are long-term facilities used after sentencing where felons and other inmates are housed for individuals who have broken the law to remove them from society for a period of time.  

The prison system is typically divided into juvenile and adult facilities. Anyone under the age of 18 is considered to be a juvenile.  

The U.S. prison system is made up of 1,719 state prisons along with 102 federal prison facilities. State prisons come under the jurisdiction of state government while federal prisons are controlled by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) under the Department of Justice. Currently, the BOP employs more than 35,000 persons with more than 450,000 employed in state prisons. 

If the crime was a federal crime, a federal prison will be the facility. Violent crimes tend to be dealt with by state prisons. Each state determines how its current system will operate.  

The main difference besides the offense between state and federal prison is in the time served. Federal prisons prohibit parole, so the amount of time served is higher than the average time served in a state prison.  

A jail, on the other hand, is a local short-term facility housing inmates awaiting trial or sentencing. It can also house inmates who are sentenced to less than a year.  

In addition to the distinction between state and federal prison, there are various levels of security associated with prisons.  

A minimum security prison is reserved for white collar criminals who have charges related to embezzlement or fraud and are basically for nonviolent offenses. There are fewer restrictions and more personal freedoms in these facilities.  

Medium security prisons are the standard for housing most criminals, using more security than in a minimum security facility.  

High security prisons are reserved for those violent and dangerous offenders with very little freedom afforded to each inmate.  

Jobs in a Prison

There are a number of jobs available in a prison. This starts with correctional officers, making up the majority of positions. Sometimes, a correctional officer goes by other job titles like prison guard or prison officer. 

A correctional officer oversees prisoners to ensure rules and regulations are maintained. They check prisoners and facilities for contraband and maintain the security of the prison.  

While many of the available jobs in a prison are for correctional officers, there are also a number of other positions. Some of these are essential roles like drug treatment specialist, recreation specialist, behavior compliance, and behavioral clinician.

In addition, some of the other types of jobs in a prison include many of the professions that you might be familiar with in the outside world. Prisons hire individuals for work as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, food service supervisors, secretaries, accountants, and attorneys.

Of course, inmates make up a significant part of the work force in prisons as each inmate is required to hold a job in a specific area for which they receive a very small hourly wage.

Requirements to Work in a Prison

Let’s consider applying for work in a federal prison.

Initial employment in the BOP for positions must be before your 37th birthday. Some exceptions are made to fill positions such as a physician assistant, medical officer, or registered nurse.  

A qualified applicant will have an employment interview held at a BOP location.

Each state and the facilities in that state maintain requirements for this job. All states will deny applications of a convicted felon. A felony conviction will disqualify you from being a corrections officer. However, there are also other qualifications to meet.  

In Texas, which has typical standards for prison employment, the Department of Criminal Justice maintains 100 prison units and employs 25,000 correctional officers.  

To be considered for a correction officer position, you must: 

  • Be a citizen of the U.S. or an alien authorized to work in the U.S. 
  • Be at least 18 years old 
  • Have a high school diploma or a GE 
  • Not be on active military duty 
  • Not be discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions 
  • Not have been convicted of a felony 
  • Never have been convicted of an offense involving domestic violence 
  • Have no Class A misdemeanor conviction within the past 10 years 
  • Have no Class B misdemeanor conviction  
  • Not be on probation for any crime 
  • Not have any criminal charges pending or any outstanding warrant 
  • Pass the CO pre-employment test 
  • Pass the drug test 
  • Pass the physical agility test 

You could be disqualified if you are not a U.S. citizen or do not have a high school diploma or GED. If you are unable to legally carry firearms or cannot perform a job because of poor physical condition will be disqualified. You must typically be 19 to 21 years old to apply.  

Qualifications for positions other than a correction officer are similar.

Is There a Background Check?

While all departments in various states have different hiring processes, one of the essential requirements is for a background check. All prison facilities, whether federal or state, will run a background check

Just as you might think, a background check will be an essential part of the application process. A background check will be run for criminal records, credit checks, and inquiries with previous employers along with personal references. 

Conviction of a crime includes sentencing, serving time, being placed on probation, and court ordered restitution. 

If you have been convicted of a felony you will almost automatically be disqualified for this position. An exception might be if the offense happened while you were a minor. 

Determination for employment will be made on a case-by-case basis, looking at an individual’s character or conduct. This will affect how you will be viewed as an applicant. It is important to be honest concerning your background during the interview.  

Do Misdemeanors Disqualify You?

If you do not disclose a criminal background of any kind you will automatically be disqualified.

Does it make a difference if a criminal conviction is a misdemeanor? With less severe penalties, a misdemeanor is in a different category.

All misdemeanors on an application for a prison position must be listed regardless of the amount of time that has passed since its occurrence. All agencies regulate and evaluate cases individually.  

Just because it is a misdemeanor doesn’t guarantee an application for employment. Some misdemeanors on an application could be denied.

If it is a misdemeanor, the type of misdemeanor will make some difference. The amount of time that has passed since the misdemeanor occurred could make a difference.  

Misdemeanors involving violence, dishonesty, unlawful sexual conduct, and the manufacture, possession, or selling of a controlled substance may negate the moral standard clause that is set as a disqualification.  

A criminal driving record could be an issue, including a history of DUIs or excessive tickets or other violations.  

How you present yourself on social media could also pose an issue for some applicants with a misdemeanor. If you are displayed on social media in a negative light with drinking, drug use, or using abusive language, you might be disqualified.  

So think about what you put on social media if you may have any interest in working in a prison.

Meeting the Challenge

Just because you have a misdemeanor, this does not eliminate your chances for employment.

Consider this: at the federal level, there are standards that are set to eliminate candidates for what might be considered to be unfair reasons. 

However, the Bureau of Prisons is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on: 

  • Race 
  • Religion 
  • National origin 
  • Age 
  • Physical disability 
  • Marital status 
  • Sex 

Sexual orientation 

They also do not discriminate against those with a misdemeanor on their record

If you are thinking about working in a prison, take time to present yourself in a favorable light. You can run a background check on yourself to know what a potential employer might see about you.  

You can also seek to have your criminal record expunged if you qualify. This will allow you to honestly state that you do not have a conviction on your record.  

Yes, you have made some mistakes. But, you are not defined by those mistakes but in how you recover from them. Give yourself a chance and don’t get discouraged. If there are issues, you can contact an attorney.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to get hired at a prison with a misdemeanor on your record? What was that like, and how did you achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

About the author

After earning his MBA from Benedictine University, Ron was looking for a new challenge and stumbled on the idea of helping the formerly incarcerated.

Using what he learned, Ron developed this website as a free resource and has worked with his team​ to continue answering questions for those in need.

1 thought on “Can You Work in a Prison With a Misdemeanor?”

  1. Well this has been in my scripting for the past two years. Here in West Virginia, the judicial system is in despair, the DOC & ” “Rehabilitation” is non existent. The recividism rate and death tolls are competing for the extinction of the Appalachian. The work force is stuck behind bars due to multiple violations that stem from a place of lack, despair, addiction, and corruption. People are being conditioned to believe this is all they have. The juveniles that are now men are groomed to stay in prison. The culture is almost forced upon them from the lack of resources. They sit around for years doing NOTHING. There is no Rehabilitation in this. There are not enough beds in facilities for the level of incarceration. Parole officers build cases against clients and provide NO resources. I am interested in providing programs and resources, I have attempted to connect with different organizations for assistance with out success. It is a team effort to create a movement of change. The people of West Virginia deserve to have an opportunity at a real second chance. I agree with former inmates being CO’s. I also am a proponent of vocational educational and emotional preparation for re entry. I am always available to collaborate!


Leave a Comment