Make sure prisons not only punish but also rehabilitate criminals.
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Quick Stats


Salary Range
$44,000 – $130,000

Data from U.S. Department of Labor

What do Penologists do?

A Penologist’s job is to study the penal system, and to design and implement programs that simultaneously punish and rehabilitate convicted criminals. You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Let the punishment fit the crime.” In ethics and law, that’s the belief that the severity of the penalty should match the severity of the offense. It’s a good idea, but it doesn’t always work. Instead of “an eye for an eye,” therefore, society often turns to a Penologist.

As a Penologist, you’re a Criminologist who specializes in jails, prisons, and other incarceration environments, and it’s your goal to develop punishments that are not only fair but also effective. To do that, you spend your days observing inmates inside correctional facilities, analyzing their behavior like a Sociologist would, and assessing the effects of the prison’s environment, programs, and policies on their rehabilitation. As part of your analysis, you interview prisoners and Correctional Officers, watch prisoner interactions, and track released inmates for the purpose of logging the long-term pros and cons of their incarceration.

Based on your findings, you then prepare and present a series of recommendations for improving individual facilities — and sometimes even the entire prison system — with changes to policies, physical environments, personnel, and programs (including self-help, rehabilitation, and educational programs).

In collaboration with Prison Guards, Prison Directors, Prison Wardens, Probation Officers, and Parole Officers, among others, you seek to change the focus of the criminal justice system from “punishment” to “redemption” so that convicts can be successfully reintegrated into society as happy, healthy, and productive citizens.

Should I be a Penologist?

You should have a doctoral degree or higher and share these traits:
  • Trustworthy: You are known for your personal integrity and honesty.
  • Ready for a Challenge: You jump into new projects with initiative and drive.
  • Detail Oriented: You pay close attention to all the little details.

  • How to become a Penologist

    Most Penologists have a Doctorate. Start by getting your Bachelor's degree. Chart?chd=s:aaakc9&chl=|||bachelor%27s+%2810%25%29|master%27s+%2828%25%29|doctorate+%2862%25%29&cht=p3&chs=466x180&chxr=0,0,62
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