Skip navigation.
Home | About Us | Contact Us
Rick Scott, Governor
Florida Department of Corrections, Secretary Michael D. Crews

Florida Department of Corrections
Michael D. Crews, Secretary

Correctional Officers and Correctional Probation Officers

Probably the most misunderstood, yet essential, part of the Florida DC is its Correctional Officers (CO's) and Correctional Probation Officers (CPO's). Judging from the following responses, the public does not know that probation officers collect victim's restitution fees from their charges; and that CO's are not armed inside the prison. They also make less money than expected.

When asked for one or two words to describe CO's to help determine the public's image of them, the answers from each of the three groups were mostly positive and surprisingly similar. The top five responses from the general public were tough, brave, underpaid, dedicated, and strong. The top five responses from the news media respondents were remarkably similar: tough, brave, dedicated, stressed and underpaid. The top five responses from DC staff were dedicated, professional, underpaid, brave and hardworking.

Description of Correctional Officers

What two words would you use to describe the typical correctional officer? (Media respondents were only asked to list one word.)

(The top 20 most frequent responses by the general public are listed.)

General Public's
Descriptions of COs
Number Percent
1. Tough5310.8%
2. Brave479.6%
3. Underpaid367.3%
4. Dedicated316.3%
5. Strong306.1%
6. Mean173.5%
7. Big163.3%
8. Honest153.1%
9. Patient132.7%
10. Fair122.4%
11. Good122.4%
12. Hardworking122.4%
13. Overworked122.4%
14. Crazy112.2%
15. Courageous102.0%
16. Hard102.0%
17. Under-Trained102.0%
18. Lazy91.8%
19. Stern91.8%
20. Guard81.6%
News Media's
Descriptions of COs
Number Percent
1. Tough228.6%
2. Brave197.5%
3. Dedicated155.9%
4. Stressed135.1%
5. Underpaid124.7%
6. Undereducated114.3%
7. Guard83.1%
8-10. (tied) Crazy, Employed, Frustrated52.0%
DC Staff
Descriptions of COs
Number Percent
1. Dedicated9315.5%
2. Professional7512.5%
3. Underpaid457.5%
4. Brave335.5%
5. Hardworking223.7%
6. Overworked162.7%
7. Stressed122.0%
8. Good111.8%
9-10. (tied) Courageous,
Fair, Security
101.7%

Do you think Correctional Officers (prison guards) who work inside the prisons are armed?
Are Correctional Officers Armed? General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Yes53068.0%17350.7%34 7.5%
No24932.0%16849.3%422 92.5%
Total Cases 779 100.0% 341 100.0% 456* 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 223/25/243
* Correctional officer/security staff was not asked this question.

Most general public and news media respondents (68.0%/50.7%) are incorrect in believing Correctional Officers who work inside the prisons are armed. Most DC staff (92.5%) are aware that COs are unarmed in prison. In fact, they do not carry weapons of any kind on the prison grounds for fear they will fall into the hands of inmates. All staff, including teachers, volunteers, prison industry workers, chaplains, medical personnel and administrative staff is unarmed. Correctional Officers are armed with 431 hours of certification training and common sense, but no weapons. Even pocketknives must be left at the gate before entering the prison. Officers in the perimeter towers are armed with various guns, but they are not located inside the prison grounds. Some officers carry walkie-talkies and all have access to phones on the compound. Should a disturbance erupt, officers do have access to weapons, including guns, pepper spray and electronic resistance devices (ERDs) and they have been trained in the use of these weapons and devices.

Do you think that an entry-level police officer and a typical entry-level Corrections Officer (prison guard) should make the same salary, or do you think one should make more than the other?
COs and Police Make Same Salary? General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Make Same Salary41953.8%19058.3%487 73.5%
One Make More Salary36046.2%13641.7%176 26.5%
Total Cases 779 100.0% 326 100.0% 663 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 223/40/36

Most respondents (53.8%/58.3%), especially DC staff, which included correctional officer staff, (73.5%) think entry-level CO's and police officers should make the same amount of money. More women (55%) than men (45%) in the general public survey expressed this belief. The starting salary of a Florida Correctional Officer was $18,923 as of January 1, 1997. According to statistics from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Division of Criminal Justice Standards and Training, the average entry-level police officer made $22,995 in 1996, (the most recent figures available) or about $4,072 more than the average entry-level Correctional Officer.

Which one should make more?
COs or Police Make Higher Salary? General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Police Officer29583.6%12088.2%106 60.6%
Correctional Officer5816.4%1611.8%69 30.4%
Total Cases 353 100.0% 136 100.0% 175 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 649/230/524

Of those respondents who think entry-level CO's and police officers should make different salaries (46.2%/41.7%/26.5%), most (83.6%/88.2%/60.6%) thought police officers should make more money than Correctional Officers.

Police Officers should make more because…
Why Police Should be Paid More General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
More Dangerous20369.3%7058.8%66 63.5%
More Responsibility3411.4%108.4%8 7.7%
Other/Specify196.5%32.5%4 3.8%
Out in Public165.4%1210.1%15 14.4%
Police Train More103.4%1714.3%6 5.8%
Need More Skills51.6%43.4%3 2.9%
Training Cost More51.5%21.7%1 1.0%
More Decisions20.8%10.8%1 1.0%
Total Cases 294 100.0% 119 100.0% 104 100.0%

Cases Not Applicable = 708/247/595

Of those who said police should make a higher salary, the majority (69.3%) of the general public, the press (58.8%) and staff (63.5%) said it was because police have a more dangerous job than Correctional Officers.

Correctional Officers should make more because…
Why COs Should be Paid More General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
More Dangerous3052.5%956.3%39 56.5%
Other/Specify1729.0%318.8%6 8.7%
More Responsibility611.2%212.5%8 11.6%
Need More Experience36.0%00.0%0 0.0%
Work in Confined Area00.0%212.5%14 20.3%
Too Many to Watch00.0%00.0%2 0.0%
Total Cases 56 100.0% 16 100.0% 69 100.0%

Cases Not Applicable = 946/350/630

Of the few general public and media respondents who said CO's should make more money, most also attributed it to the dangerous nature of the job (52.5%/56.3%). Some respondents said CO's should be paid more because the stress level is higher and it is difficult working with inmates all day. Less than 10.0% (69) of DC staff said Correctional Officers should be paid more than police officers.

Correctional Probation Officers

There is some question as to whether respondents even understood that Correctional Probation Officers (CPO's) are employees of the Florida Department of Corrections. What is clear is that these respondents were not aware of the fee-collecting duties associated with being a CPO. CPO's and CPO supervisors, etc., were not asked the following three questions.

INTERVIEWER - we are interested in finding out whether people know that probation officers collect money from people on probation to pay certain costs and restitution.
Now I'm going to ask you a few questions about Correctional Officers who work in the state Probation Program. Do you think that the typical PROBATION officer's duties include collecting court costs and fines?
Probation Officers Collect Costs General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Yes20130.8%10133.3%233 49.4%
No 45269.2%20266.7%239 50.6%
Total Cases 653 100.0% 303 100.0% 472* 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 349/63/277
* Correctional Probation Officers were not asked this question.

Most general public and media respondents (69.2%/66.7%) are unaware that one aspect of a Correctional Probation Officer's job is to collect court fines and costs from the individual he or she is supervising on some form of Community Supervision: (probation, electronic monitoring, etc.) Only half of all DC staff is aware of this part of a CPO's job. In FY 1996-97, CPO's collected more than $11.1 million in court fines and costs from offenders on community supervision.

How about collecting the costs of probation supervising from the individual on probation?
Collect Costs From Probationer General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Yes32451.5%15252.4%322 67.1%
No30548.5%13847.6%158 32.9%
Total Cases 629 100.0% 290 100.0% 480* 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 373/76/219
* Correctional Probation Officers were not asked this question.

Slightly more than half (51.5%/52.4%) of the general public and media respondents know that Correctional Probation Officers collect the cost of supervision fees from the individuals whom they supervise. Two thirds (67.1%) of DC staff know this. In FY 1996-97, CPO's collected more than $22.4 million in cost of supervision fees from offenders on community supervision.

How about collecting victim restitution?
Collect Victim Restitution General Public News Media DC Staff
Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent
Yes24538.6%8830.3%295 61.2%
No38961.4%20269.7%187 38.8%
Total Cases 634 100.0% 290 100.0% 482* 100.0%
Cases Not Applicable = 368/76/217
* Correctional Probation Officers were not asked this question.

Most (61.4%) general public respondents do not know that CPO's collect victim restitution from offenders on supervision, while even fewer reporters are aware of that fact (69.7%). Most DC staff (61.2%) is also not aware of this role for CPO's. In FY1996-97, CPO's collected more than $25.1 million for victims of crime in Florida.