Perceived training needs of county correctional officers in Mississippi

Stephen Edward Ruegger

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the perceived training needs for county correctional officers in the state of Mississippi. There were two research groups for this study. The first research group consisted of the 82 elected sheriffs in Mississippi. County correctional officers from 15 counties in Mississippi comprised the second research group. Each group was given a questionnaire and asked to rank the areas of training they perceived as most important for the job of county correctional officer. County correctional officers were chosen to participate in the study to determine the types of training that they felt most important for their job. County sheriffs were chosen to participate in the study because it is the responsibility of each sheriff to run the county jail and to insure the safe operation of the facility. Thirty-two training needs were addressed in a questionnaire that was administered independently to both groups. The respondents were asked to rank each of the training areas by importance. Data was collected from forty-two sheriffs and eighty-seven county correctional officers (N = 129). In addition, a comparison was made on the perceived training needs of county correctional officers by each group. Furthermore, the county correctional officers responded to questions regarding the amount of initial and in-service training they had received. They were also questioned regarding the types of training that they had received, both initially and in-service. Each of the respondents were also asked questions regarding age, highest educational level completed, and time on the job. The study showed that a small percentage of county correctional officers had not received the 80 contact hours of initial training within their first two years of employment as mandated by state law. It further showed that half of the respondents had received no in-service training or continuing education. Of the 32 areas of training addressed in the study, there were only eight topics that showed statistically significant differences between the responses from the county correctional officers and from the sheriffs concerning the perceived training needs for county correctional officers. The sheriffs perceived a higher need for training in the areas of the proper use of restraints, suicide prevention, knowledge of the different types of bonds, and knowledge of the proper jurisdiction of the different law enforcement agencies. County correctional officers believed that there was a greater need for training in the areas of firearms training, processing a DUI offender, drug identification, and suspect interrogation and interviewing.