Objective: To identify the core curricular elements to assure competency and professional development of registered nurses working with justice-involved populations.

Background: Numerous assessments of education priorities have been articulated for nurses working with patients who interface with justice systems. But no consensus of what comprises the core elements of a curriculum for nurses employed by justice systems has been published. Guidance from correctional nurse education experts is needed.

Design: A web-based Delphi survey methodology was used. Three de-identified surveys were sent to academic and clinical correctional nurse educators two weeks apart by email following an invitation and voluntary agreement to participate. An IRB waiver was sought and obtained.

Setting and participants: Expert educator participants were identified through internet searches of publications, grants and referrals. Participants include 14 nurse academicians who teach correctional health topics, 5 clinical nurse educators employed in correctional settings across the US, and 1 international academician.

Results: Thirteen core curricular elements were identified, prioritized and clustered under sub-headings of knowledge, attitudes, and skills. Two types of programming were identified: professional development for new nurses entering correctional systems; and, maintenance of clinical competency. Use of evidence-based educational materials were identified as important.

Conclusion: There is consensus that a core curriculum is needed to bring standardization to educational programming for correctional nursing. Identification of a core curricula is a fundamental step toward recognition of the professional expertise required in this forensic nursing sub-specialty. Targeted competency development curricula can reduce costs associated with high rates of attrition, delayed readiness for clinical service, poor quality of care and high error rates and missed care omissions.