The Secretary of State visited HMP Coldingley to meet some Unlocked Graduates along with the BBC. They watched the team doing cell searches and interviewed one of our participants as well as Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter to find out more about the programme.
++ Women candidates secure 8 out of 10 places on inaugural cohort ++
++ CEO responds to latest Government announcement on prison workforce numbers ++
After a rigorous selection process, Unlocked Graduates – the new prison officer graduate scheme – today unveiled its inaugural cohort. The Unlocked Graduates programme was launched in January and candidates had just eight weeks to submit an application. During this time, 600 top graduates vied for just 40 places, with thousands more registering their interest. The overwhelming interest in the scheme could lead to an increase in the number of participants being placed in the first wave this year.
The number of front-line prison officers in England and Wales is up from 18,090 in 2016 to 18,755 this year, Ministry of Justice figures show. In future, trainees from a new scheme will help boost the numbers of graduates in the profession.
On E Wing at Coldingley prison, in Surrey, a group is being shown how to carry out one of the most basic tasks for a prison officer – though it is also one of the most important.
Two Unlocked Graduates joined a discussion on BBC 5 Live and made a strong case for why anyone should consider becoming a prison officer. They argued it is critical for people with optimism and a real belief in rehabilitation think about working in prisons and Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter explained what the programme is hoping to achieve.
The first in an ongoing series, two Unlocked Graduates explained to Rick Kelsey of BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat why they decided to become prison officers and why it is an important job.
Physical violence, bad views and uncomfortable uniforms – why be a prison officer?
A £27,000 a year starting salary, in some parts of the country, might help.
The scheme, run by charity Unlocked and paid for by the government, has recruited the best 50 graduates from more than 2000 people who registered, and they plan to expand next year.
Sabrina tells us about what inspired her to apply for the Unlocked Graduate Scheme.
Hi, I’m Sabrina, I recently graduated in BSc Psychology from Aston University in July 2016. I wasn’t exactly sure what route I wanted to take after my degree, however I knew I wanted a role where I could be a source of support or mentor people who needed it and help change lives.
Small prison reforms are encouraging but also highlight the lack of big change in the sector.
SOARING performances of songs from “Cats” and “Les Misérables” are unusual fare for a prison. But on May 3rd an inmate at Leicester prison brought an audience to their feet with his renditions. The recital was part of a TEDx conference, a popular lecture series that had never before been held in a British jail. In the midst of a prisons crisis, with violence against inmates and officers at record levels and crippling staff shortages, the event is an encouraging example of smaller efforts to improve conditions.
Recruiting top graduates to work in jails will improve a maligned service and lift inmates’ chances of rehabilitation.
In the 1970s BBC sitcom Porridge, Fletch, the prisoner played by Ronnie Barker, describes a friend who got into debt and had too many fights. “His brain went soft, his reflexes went. [He] just became like a vegetable — an incoherent non-thinking zombie.” The punchline is perhaps predictable. “He joined the prison service as a warder. Doing very well.”
If you could pick a first job for someone leaving university this summer, “prison officer” would probably rank as one of the most challenging.
Inspectors’ reports have repeatedly said that officers in some prisons had all but lost control and that in some it’s easier for prisoners to get drugs than clean clothes. Officers have described the lawlessness and violence of prison life, caused in no small part by overcrowding and a surge in the use of synthetic drugs.