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Guidelines for Proper Grooming & Appearance in Corrections

Regardless of the career, if you are required to wear a uniform then there are almost assuredly some set guidelines on the proper wear and appearance of said uniform, as well as your personal appearance while in it.

While most aspects of your correctional officer uniform are dictated within your department’s regulations on such matters, grooming and appearance may not be so clear. If you didn’t have this bit of information drilled into your head constantly throughout your time at your correctional officer training academy, you will.

Until then, here are some areas that you should address and be aware of prior to attending your correctional officer training.


How a person’s tattoos will be perceived while on a new job is a general concern for most people in which it applies. Obliviously if you have a tattoo that is only visible to your significant other then you wont have much to worry about. For all others, your tattoos shouldn’t be offensive, objectionable, or is not gang related or affiliated in any way. Additionally, if you the type with head, face, or neck tattoos, then you may also be against your department’s guidelines.

Hair/Facial Hair

For most people, if you normally keep your hair neat and clean with the occasional trim or edge up then you’ll be fine. If you find it difficult not to come in rocking the same mullet, rat-tail, ponytail, or Mohawk, then you might have some issues that will need to be addressed, aside from your current choice in hairstyles. While there is no Correctional Officer Haircut that you must have, your neat and orderly appearance will speak volumes on your competency level to supervisors and the rest of your coworkers. Basically no extreme hair styles, outrageous colors, or hair below the collar.

Mustaches are allowed if kept neat and trimmed. Handlebar mustaches are normally not permitted. Beards are often not allowed unless you have a skin condition documented by a doctor, what we called a “shaving profile” in the Army. Even then, your beard growth must still remain within the prescribed guidelines set by your department. Sideburns must also be neat and trimmed, with a length not exceeding the bottom of the ear.

Female correctional officer hair should also be neat & clean, preferably pinned close to the side if needed, and not extending to far down ones back. Items normally used to restrain hair would be allowed if they remain basic and simple.

Your eyebrows and eyelashes must remain in their normal shape and color. Overly excessive arches, pointing, painting or otherwise unnatural eyebrows are not usually permitted. The same can be said for unnatural eyelashes as well.


Correctional officers on duty will need to ensure that their fingernails are maintained to be clean and trimmed at all times as to not interfere with the carrying out of ones duties.  Usually fingernail length in established in the departments guidelines, but often should not exceed one-fourth inch (1/4”) over top of the finger. If nail polish is used, it should be a natural color, or clear. No writing or designs on fingernails are allowed.


If you choose to wear your personal jewelry on duty as a correctional officer, keep in mind that generally if it is lost, stolen, or damaged that your department will not responsible. The common types of jewelry such as watches, wedding bands, and medical bracelets are allowed. Necklaces in most cases can be worn if they remain under the collar and non-visible. Ear rings, nose rings, tongue and lip piercing, and any other type of facial jewelry will most likely not be permitted.

Makeup/Colognes & Perfumes

If female correctional officer choose to wear makeup, then it should blend in with their natural skin color and be consistent with the wear of the uniform, be conservatively applied, and have a natural appearance. Cologne or perfume, if worn on duty, should be used in moderation and not overpowering.

Finally, the guideline presented here are just an example of what you should expect to find currently in place as a matter of policy on grooming and appearance standards for correctional officers. Make sure that you read up on your own department’s specific guidelines on this matter and follow them accordingly.

14 Responses to Guidelines for Proper Grooming & Appearance in Corrections

  1. RQ July 30, 2014 at 5:59 am #

    I am not a CO, but I am a female staff member in a male institution. I strongly recommend that female COs in male institutions not wear any kind of perfume or cologne. Inmates /will/ comment on it, and then you are in a situation where you have to respond. Better to avoid the situation altogether. I find that wearing no makeup also makes life easier. The less you give them to comment on, the better. Remember that they have nothing to do but watch you, and the most innocent-seeming compliment may be the inmate gauging how you will react. If your reaction is in any way positive, next time, it might be a little more familiar, and gradually, you wind up in a difficult and inappropriate situation. Even if you are not married, you might consider wearing a wedding band to work.

    • M.E.W. October 20, 2014 at 9:52 pm #

      I work in a facility that houses both male and female offenders, and I can tell you that it does not make a difference whether woman wear makeup, perfume or a wedding ring. Male offenders see you as a female and will still act inappropriately. They have been written up for inappropriate sex acts while staring at the female officers, standing naked in the shower and staring at them and using foul language, nothing really works.

  2. Cassie October 7, 2014 at 9:25 am #

    I have a question regarding my hair! It is really short in the back and the sides go an inch past my ear lobes. Do I have to pin the sides up or is that short enough? And as for twists in the hair can I have twists with rubber bands holding it

  3. Cassie October 7, 2014 at 9:26 am #

    For the mdoc

  4. Louis Peters March 14, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Can you still be a c.o with a dismissed assault charge

  5. bfree August 13, 2015 at 11:42 am #

    Can you be a male wearing dreadlocks and be a correctional officer?

    • Loner October 14, 2015 at 1:49 am #

      This i would like to know.

  6. kris silver September 2, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    I applied for corrections a few months ago, but I have a tattoo on my elbow, it’s a spider web, and since then alot of people have asked if I’ve been to prison, I really don’t know if it means something and maybe I should get it covered up, just curious if this would be considered and gang affiliated tattoo?

    • Leona Henry December 7, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

      Spider web on elbow is also a universal tattoo of aryan brotherhood gang

  7. James mockabee March 15, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

    I am a male and I have a decently long hair. I keep it pulled back and up in a “man bun” when it’s not appropriate to be down. I have recently applied to be a c.o in ohio and I am needing to know what’s the circumstances for a guy to have long hair?

    My hair is long due to spiritual beliefs.

  8. Jodye Maas March 25, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    I am interested in being a correctional officer but I have a hand tattoo.. Native American tribal tattoo. Would I be turned down?

  9. Kiana January 18, 2017 at 11:03 pm #

    That’s a clever answer to a tricky qutseion

  10. Marshall January 20, 2017 at 4:54 pm #

    Are nose piercings allowed?

  11. Billy April 12, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    Can you have a tongue piercing as a correction officer?