Becoming a Correctional Services Officer
The Correctional Officer Training and Assessment (COTA) program is an eight-week training and assessment program containing theory and practical skills based on job-related topics. It includes behavioural and skills-based assessment of recruits. There is a focus on professionalism and respect for Correctional Services’ diverse groups of staff, managers and offenders, with an emphasis on ensuring that correctional services’ workplaces and service delivery are inclusive, diverse, equitable, accessible and consistent with human rights principles.
The cost of the program is as follows:
- $1,000 for the course, plus $1,000 for room and board (for those residing on site at the Ontario Correctional Services College located in Hamilton) – this includes all meals from the on-site cafeteria.
For financial assistance, individuals invited to attend the COTA program are provided information on applying to the following options:
- the Correctional Officer Student Assistance Program (COSAP), which provides a loan to help offset costs of the program
- the Inclusion Scholarship, which covers the financial costs of the program, room and board. Selected applicants demonstrate, champion and support a commitment to human rights, diversity, inclusion, accessibility and equity.
The program requires recruits to:
- Complete a pre-course study package
- Work through extensive Self-Directed Learning (SDL) packages
- Attend and actively participate in all classes
- Conduct after-hours security patrols
- Complete relevant written reports
- Be tested on the core requirements of the program.
The COTA program is practical skills-based and reflects adult learning principles. Lectures are minimized. Many of the day-to-day job tasks of the correctional officer positions incorporated into the program such as:
- Daily muster
- Radio use and key control
- Maintaining a logbook
- Security patrols
- Completing occurrence, misconduct, accident and injury, and search reports based on actual events.
The COTA program emphasizes that learning assignments require cooperation and collaboration by all team members. Recruits are assessed on their ability to work effectively and contribute as a team member.
The program is structured on the following instructional themes:
- Correctional System Orientation
- Effective Communication
- Inmate Management and Intervention Techniques
- Inmate Programs and Services
- Work Place Safety and Security.
These themes cover a wide range of topics. The COTA program uses multiple teaching and learning strategies including lectures, small and large group discussions, self-directed learning activities, role-play scenarios, etc. By using a variety of learning strategies, recruits will be able to apply the topics of instruction to the correctional environment they are entering, thereby retaining important knowledge and practicing skills as they perform their duties.
The Ontario Correctional Services College is committed to offering recruits a safe, positive and inclusive learning environment so they can graduate from the COTA program having acquired the basic skills necessary to be successful as front-line correctional officers and contribute to the organization.
This is achieved by ensuring legislation, ministry policies and directives, up-to-date research and consultation with field staff guide the content.
Correctional System Orientation
The Correctional System Orientation theme covers organizational expectations, interpersonal skills, social norms, and effective correctional practices. These topics emphasize the core values of the program and support constructive relationships when dealing with staff and inmates. Recruits will learn how to support a positive and inclusive work environment.
In addition to preserving the safety and security of the people and facilities they are assigned to, recruits will learn how to positively contribute to the organization using the skills and abilities gained through the COTA program.
The Effective Communication theme focuses on effective speech, listening skills, logbook entry, and report writing which form the foundation to all effective methods of communication in a diverse correctional environment.
Recruits will learn and demonstrate characteristics of effective oral communication, elements of cross-cultural communication, principles of good report writing, the format of good reports, preparation required to write the report, and an introduction to specific reports required by the ministry.
Recruits will learn the purposes and procedures for the maintenance of logbook records; what activities, duties, and occurrences must be recorded; the difference between legitimate and illegitimate logbook entries; and the importance of logbooks for investigative purposes.
Inmate Management and Intervention Techniques
The Inmate Management and Intervention Techniques theme focuses on recruits’ day-to-day interactions, care, and management of inmates. Recruits will explore inmate behaviours and institutional issues that they may encounter during daily routines at their facility. They will learn how to maintain a high level of professionalism and integrity, which can positively affect an inmate’s care and custody, and demonstrate the strategies and methods for effectively dealing with various situations they might encounter in managing inmates.
Inmate Programs and Services
The Inmate Programs and Services theme covers topics about assisting recruits to better understand the organization’s goal of effective correctional interventions, aimed at creating a social environment in which inmates may achieve changes in attitudes, to assist them in successful social adjustment and reintegration in the community. Recruits will learn how to best support these practices by gaining awareness, knowledge, and skills to better perform their duties and contribute to the reduction of recidivism.
Workplace Safety and Security
The Workplace Safety and Security theme is concerned with correctional officers maintaining care, custody, and intervention of inmates, in their facility, and ensuring their own safety and public safety where an environment “Immediately Dangerous to Life and Health” (IDLH) may exist or the air quality of the facility may be compromised.
Recruits will examine policies, procedures, and practices of how to be more aware of the environment they work in. In addition, recruits will gain the skills necessary to recognize and help prevent the spread of infectious diseases that may exist within a close correctional environment, which will allow recruits to be more proactive in their approach to these challenging situations.
A Pre-reading Package is sent to the recruits several weeks prior to their arrival at the Ontario Correctional Services College and includes the following information:
- The ministry vision
- The ministry mandate
- The functions of the ministry
- A description of the broad learning outcomes
- Guidelines for the independent pre-course home assignments and study
- Self-directed learning information on the following:
- The Adult Criminal Justice System
- Report Writing including proper completion of logbooks
- Ombudsman Ontario
- Ontario Parole Board
- Understanding Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression in a diverse correctional work environment.