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Correctional Services

Overview

This page provides information and data on the Correctional Services sector, which is one component of the Corrections and Public Safety industry.

The Correctional Services sector currently employs over 37,800 people (with employment levels predicted to exceed 42,500 by 2026), and those working within the sector occupy a range of roles in prisons, juvenile and immigrant detention, parole services, correctional administration, and management. Businesses in this sector contributed over $8 billion to the Australian economy in 2020–21.

The work environment in the Correctional Services sector is very diverse, and as the industry shifts from an institutional model to a rehabilitative one, new and updated skills are required of the corrections workforce to support and manage these transitions.

Vocational training is available for occupations involved in:

  • Justice services
  • Correctional practice
  • Correctional administration
  • Correctional management
  • Community corrections
  • Youth corrections
  • Custodial case management.

Nationally recognised training for Correctional Services is delivered under the CSC – Correctional Services Training Package.

For information on policing, see Police.

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

As detailed employment information for the Correctional Services sector is unavailable, employments levels of Prison Officers have been used as a proxy for sector-wide employment.

Employment levels for Prison Officers have fluctuated since 2001, with short periods of increasing levels followed by a decline. Levels peaked in 2020 at 25,600, but have since declined by almost a quarter to 19,500 in 2021. Employment levels are projected to increase slightly to around 21,000 by 2025.

Training trends

Training snapshot

After a decline between 2016 and 2017, program enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications gradually increased over the following years from approximately 6,860 in 2017 to 7,380 in 2019, however they? declined in 2020 to 7,220. Program completions have been steadily increasing year on year, from just under 2,090 in 2016 to around 3,980 in 2020. Students enrolled in subjects delivered as part of a nationally recognised program accounted for almost all subject only enrolments between 2016 and 2020, at over 98% each year.

Almost three quarters (73%) of enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications were at the certificate III level, with certificate IV level enrolments making up most of the remaining portion (21%). The overwhelming majority of enrolments at the certificate III level were in the Certificate III in Correctional Practice. The majority of enrolments in 2020 had the intended occupation of Prison Officer.

The majority of enrolments in Correctional Services-related qualifications in 2020 were at enterprise training providers (80%), with enrolments predominantly funded through domestic fee for service arrangements (93%). Private training providers had 19% of enrolments, with these also entirely funded through domestic fee for service.

Almost one third (31%) of students resided in New South Wales, followed by 27% in Victoria and 17% in Queensland. When looking at training delivery location, a higher proportion of training was delivered in New South Wales (36%), followed by Victoria (26%) and Queensland (17%).

Apprentice and trainee commencements and completions fluctuated between 2011 and 2020. In 2020 commencements increased by over half on the previous year (58%) to reach the highest figure recorded since 2011 at roughly 860.  Completions almost doubled in 2020 to approximately 440, after falling to a seven year low of 220 in 2019.

All apprenticeships and traineeships had the intended occupation of Prison Officer. New South Wales reported the highest proportion of Correctional Services apprentices and trainees (55%), followed by Victoria (14%) and Western Australia (13%).

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

According to the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, the top priority skills in this sector are:

  • Cultural competence
  • Health/safety
  • Security
  • Digital literacy
  • Trauma informed care.

In addition, the top generic skills for the sector as identified in the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast include:

  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence
  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Language, Literacy and Numeracy (LLN) (Foundation skills).

According to job vacancy data, the top generic skills in demand in this sector are communication skills and planning, while the top two occupations in demand are Prison Officers and Psychologists, with the Geo Group Australia and New South Wales Government identified as the top employers.

In an online survey of stakeholders conducted by AIS on behalf of the Corrections IRC (published in the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast), the top occupations in demand, as identified by respondents who had experienced a skills shortage in the 12 months prior to 2019, were:

  • Corrections Officers
  • Correctional Management
  • Youth Workers (Justice and Custodial Officers)
  • Clinicians
  • Case Managers.

The main reasons cited by employers for the above mentioned in demand occupations, included:

  • Wages / salaries considered too low
  • Unattractive job / poor industry image
  • Geographic location of the vacancy
  • Competition from other organisations
  • Ageing workforce / current staff retiring.

A report on the Correctional Services workforce by the South Australian Training and Skills Commission's Industry Skills Councils identified training and skills needs relating to critical thinking, problem solving, emotional intelligence, victim awareness, and advanced relationship management skills. This report also reflected on the difficulties of staffing correctional facilities in regional South Australia. However it also notes that, although attracting new recruits is difficult, the industry does experience low staff turnover rates.

The key industry issues identified in the Corrections IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast relate to factors associated with mental illness and the mental health of the prison population. This is significant as 40% of the prison population have a mental health condition, and 87% of young people in custody have a past or present psychological disorder. As the prison population increases each year, approaches are needed to minimise the likelihood of recidivism. The likelihood of incarceration and re-offending has been closely linked to traumatic events, such as childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and mental health issues. In order to make positive impacts on offenders and reduce the chances of recidivism, a trauma-informed approach that is holistic and culturally appropriate can have a positive influence on this group. Ensuring the Corrections workforce is equipped with specialised skills to understand cognitively impaired inmates’ patterns of behaviour and thoughts gives them the tools needed to de-escalate stressful situations and engage effectively with inmates.

The significance of mental health and resilience for the Corrections workforce was also highlighted in the Corrections IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook. Prisons across Australia ceased all external visits for several months to reduce the risk of infection during COVID-19. It was acknowledged that staff rarely receive formal/accredited training relating to looking after their own mental health and building resilience to handle stressful situations such as the pandemic. This has led to the IRC proposing the development of a Resilience/Mental Health Skill Set to support the Corrections workforce in building resilience to better handle high levels of stress over prolonged periods of time.

Industry issues relating to the mental welfare and rehabilitation of the prison population were explored in greater detail in the Corrections IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast, with the following points discussed:

  • Prison models are transitioning from institutional reform to an increased focus on rehabilitative services. This means the sector workforce needs more skilled staff who can offer education and training programs aimed at improved offenders’ physical and mental welfare.
  • A recent study in Australia indicated that offenders who participate in VET programs were twice as likely to remain offence-free five years after their release. Enhancing the soft skills of corrections staff so they are equipped with the knowledge and skills to encourage and direct offenders towards appropriate VET programs will have the lasting effect of providing more opportunities for successful reintegration into society, as well as increased employment prospects for offenders.
  • In addition, the soft skills of critical thinking, leadership, and emotional intelligence have been highlighted as being in high demand among corrections staff due to the wide range of people they interact with, often in high-tension situations. Cognitive skills, coupled with emotional intelligence, enable workers to build rapport and sympathy with offenders, allowing for effective communication and the resolution or de-escalation of conflicts.
  • ICT and digital literacy skills are required to support the use of ICT in some correctional facilities where email and videoconferencing are used for legal proceedings, family visitation, and medical consultations. In addition, ICT (particularly through gaming technology) has been identified as benefiting rehabilitation programs through cognitive skills training as well as supporting literacy, numeracy and life skills.

Additionally, Effective Means of Teaching and Developing Emotional Intelligence in the Corrections Industry found the Corrections workforce needs to rely on individual cognitive skills and emotional intelligence to build rapport and sympathy with offenders in order to communicate effectively and resolve or de-escalate conflicts. The report states that training programs in emotional intelligence are fundamental to facilitate Corrective Officers in undertaking their roles effectively as the corrections industry moves from an institutional to rehabilitative model.

Links and resources

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

IRC and skills forecasts

Corrections Industry Reference Committee

 

Relevant research

Australian prison vocational education and training and returns to custody among male and female ex-prisoners: A cross-jurisdictional study - Jesse Cale, Andrew Day, Sharon Casey, David Bright, Jo Wodak, Margaret Giles, Eileen Baldry

Correctional Services Workforce Insights – South Australian Training and Skills Commission (TASC)

Effective Means of Teaching and Developing Emotional Intelligence in the Corrections Industry - Advances in Applied Sociology, Volume 10, Number 6, June 2020

Report on Government Services 2020: Part C, Section B, Corrective Services – Productivity Commission

 

Industry associations and advisory bodies

ACT Corrective Services

Australasian Corrections Education Association (ACEA)

Corrective Services New South Wales

Northern Territory Correctional Services

Probation and Community Corrections Officers’ Association (PACCOA) 

Queensland Corrective Services

South Australian Department for Correctional Services

Tasmania Prison Service

Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety

Western Australia Department of Justice

 

Employers

G4S Australia and New Zealand

GEO Group Australia Pty Ltd

MTC-Broadspectrum

Serco Australia

 

Employee associations

Australian Prison Officers Association

Community and Public Sector Union

Probation and Community Corrections Officers’ Association (PACCOA)

Public Service Association of NSW

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 4421 Prison Officers.

 

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ08 - Employed persons by Occupation unit group of main job (ANZSCO), Sex, State and Territory, August 1986 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021, https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 4 digit 4421 Prison Officers, 2001 to 2021, May Quarter.

                                                                                                                                                               

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET students and courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • CSC Correctional Services Training Package
    • CSC20101 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20107 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20112 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC20115 - Certificate II in Justice Services
    • CSC30101 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30107 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30112 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30115 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30119 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30120 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice
    • CSC30198 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial Corrections)
    • CSC30201 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC30207 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC30219 - Certificate III in Immigration Detention Operations
    • CSC30298 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community Corrections)
    • CSC30301 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC30307 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC30398 - Certificate III in Correctional Practice (Administration/Ancillary)
    • CSC40101 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40107 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40112 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40115 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40120 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40198 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice
    • CSC40201 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice (Custodial)
    • CSC40301 - Certificate IV in Correctional Practice (Community)
    • CSC50101 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50107 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50112 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50115 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC50198 - Diploma of Correctional Administration
    • CSC60101 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60107 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60112 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60115 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management
    • CSC60120 - Advanced Diploma of Correctional Management.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 program completions.

 

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year. Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill-sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted. Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence. Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET Students and Courses: terms and definitions document.

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place. This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

CSC – Correctional Services Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

 

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • 7714 Correctional and Detention Services
    • Occupations excluding Clerical and Administrative Workers.
  • Employers
    • 4421 Prison Officers
    • 2723 Psychologists
    • 2544 Registered Nurses
    • 2726 Welfare, Recreation and Community Arts Workers
    • 4117 Welfare Support Workers
    • 7714 Correctional and Detention Services.
Updated: 20 Jan 2022
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