Prison Correction Officer: What is a Sergeant?

Quick question.

My son is a Corrections Officer at a prison. He loves his job and from what his coworkers have told me, he is very good at it.

He was recently promoted to Sergeant. After learning the news on Facebook, I congratulated him, but I do not know how meaningful the rank is. Anyone know? Is he going to make Warden anytime soon? Should I send a gift? :slight_smile:

Based on a long association with the Ohio prison system as a volunteer, I believe it means he got a pretty decent raise, that he is now a supervisor, and that he still has a long way to go before he’s a warden. The prisons I volunteer in have a number of ranks above sergeant. I know lieutenants, captains, and majors. I think wardens and deputy wardens are the generals.

Gifts are always nice.

Are wardens police officers? Or some kind of “Civilian” authority?

They are in the Corrections system, not the Police system. Wardens run the prisons. They have officers, sergeants, and lieutenants working for them, at least in NY where my BIL works. Other states may do so differently.

How far he is from running the place is going to depend on the specific department. I am familiar with a jail system and a prison system.

In the jail:
Correction officer
Assistant deputy warden
Deputy warden
Deputy warden in command

In the prison:

Correction officer
Deputy superintendent of security ( 2 levels)
Superintendent ( may also be filled by deputy superintendents of different areas)

And in my state they are “peace officers” which is something slightly different than a “police officer”

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As my son’s father, I just hope he eventually gets a desk job. He loves the physical nature of his job, enjoys training and working out, but I don’t know how many years of that a person can tolerate.

One of his coworkers recently hurt his back dealing with a prisoner and may eventually need to have some discs removed.

Indeed. His daughter was born ~3 months ago so I’ve been sending gifts for my granddaughter (my first). Looks like I should send him a congratulatory present.


From my experience (which was in the NY prison system) Sergeant is the best job to have. You have CO’s to do all the boring work and Lieutenants to make all the difficult decisions.

Again, I am speaking for Ohio, not Pennsylvania, but in Ohio prisons sergeants are supervisors. They still carry batons, pepper spray, and whatever else weighs down those belts they wear. If a scuffle breaks out, they are expected to direct the action, not participate, but they can wade in if needed. In the handful of disturbances I have witnessed, the “white shirts” (sergeants and above) directed the action and called for additional personnel on their radios while the “gray shirts” (correctional officers) subdued the participants. He’s well on his way to a desk job, Dad.

I’m feeling very good about life right now!

Here in Kansas, the state prison system has:


The major is the head of security for a particular facility, and reports directly to the warden or one of the deputy wardens (depending on size of the prison). The warden and his/her deputies also oversee all of the other aspects of the prison, from food service to hiring and firing, classification, educational and trade programs, purchasing and accounting, health services, etc.

There’ll be usually one captain per shift and one or several lieutenants. Each cellhouse will have a sergeant and several to many officers and corporals. The sergeant is a “working supervisor” position; it’s still fairly hands-on, but s/he is starting up into management and can assign lower-level staff to the less pleasant or more arduous tasks.

In this state, somebody who wants to become a warden will need to spend some time in the non-uniformed jobs as well. Corrections counselors are the people who work one-on-one with inmates: assessing program needs, assigning to work details or educational programs, developing parole plans, handling disciplinary matters, determining appropriate security classifications (max, minimum, special management, etc.), resolving grievances, etc. That’s mostly a desk job with lots and lots of paperwork.

Your state’s prison system, of course, may vary.

In the WI prison system the system is roughly thus, with higher numbers wielding greater responsibility and authority:

  1. Officers

  2. Sergeants
    Both of these are known as ‘blue shirts’, as that’s part of their uniform. They’re responsible for most day to day inmate management/security duties. The sergeants have some additional duties that the officers don’t have, and get more pay as a result

  3. Lieutenants

  4. Captains
    These are the ‘white shirts’, probably due to their white shirts. They are administrative, have direct supervisory duties over the officers, and often MUST be present when an inmate is having an internal disciplinary hearing or must be extracted from a cell, or must be kept in tie-down due to unacceptable behavior. The officers must be notified of certain events/occurrences too, like inmate deaths.

  5. Security Director
    this one oversees the security side of the operation

  6. Deputy Warden
    Oversees multiple operations of the prison as designated by the warden. Acts as warden in the warden’s absence

  7. Warden
    Has nearly absolute authority over the entire institution and its particular operations.

  8. Assistant Adult Institutions Administrator
    Oversees multiple operations over the entire Corrections system as designated by the Adult Institutions Director, acts as such in the AI Administrator’s absence

  9. Adult Institution Administrator
    The Warden of All Wardens in the entire state Corrections system.

  10. Assistant Deputy Secretary of Corrections

  11. Deputy Secretary of Corrections

  12. Secretary of Corrections
    These above 3 positions are political appointees of the Governor, particularly the Secretary of Corrections (who will have great input into selection of the Assistant Deputy and Deputy).

  13. Governor of WI

Often, Wardens end up as AI Administrators, Deputy Secretaries, and Secretaries. But those positions need not be filled by past Wardens.

Probably more than any of you wanted to know about my hierarchy.

Me? I answer to the Medical Director who answers to the Assistant AI and AI administrators, and those above that level. But I always listen closely to my warden. And deputy. And security staff.

met a guy once and he told me he was a prison guard. So I asked do you work on death row? And to my surprise he said yes. Here in NC there have been prison guard shortages for a while. That doesn’t surprise me with the unemployment rate so low.