The main benefits of joining Unlocked Graduates are the attributes and experience you will develop as a leader, and the satisfaction you will gain from making a significant impact on one of society’s most intractable problems.
The prison officer role is well rewarded and there are lots of opportunities for progression into a wide range of roles. Although the shift structure means long days it can also mean a highly flexible and varied work schedule. Most prisons also have excellent gyms that officers have access to as well!
You will build and utilise a wide range of skills on your jobs, these will be consolidated and developed by the fully-funded Master’s undertaken as part of this two year programme.
Influence and persuasion
As a prison officer, you will work with people who will challenge you every day. Your role is to ensure that the regime runs effectively and you will need to influence individuals who don’t always want to follow the rules. This can vary from persuading a prisoner that he or she needs to go to work or education to coaxing them to see a medical professional for mental health issues. Many prisoners struggle to see a way out of their current situation, particularly those who are habitual reoffenders. A key part of successful rehabilitation is changing this mind-set and being able to motivate someone to change their attitude and approach to a situation so that they can achieve success. Your Master’s and policy paper will also offer you opportunities to propose innovations in your prison but you will need to persuade your Governor and team to take them up.
Prisons are busy places. In addition to the everyday tasks of managing the routine and regime, you may be required to complete additional tasks by colleagues and senior management, as well as responding to prisoners’ requests and emergency incidents as they occur. You must always be prepared to adapt your priorities and effectively problem solve to ensure everything gets done. At the same time you will be challenged to maintain a focus on strategic and systemic change. Finding time to think about long-term change in the face of urgent short-term needs is a major challenge.
Making decisions under pressure
Prisons are a challenging environment to work in. There will be emergencies and incidents. You will be required to make a decision on the best course of action. This could include an altercation between prisoners, being the first to arrive on the scene of a serious incident or dealing with an immediate request from a prisoner. You will need to make pressurised decisions, considering a huge number of factors and the safety of all those in the prison.
Building professional relationships
The majority of former prisoners who have broken the cycle of reoffending highlight the importance of having a positive relationship with prison officers. It will be a key part of your role to build relationships with the prisoners you work with, as well as your colleagues who will be vital in supporting you. You will need to maintain the fine balance of being authoritative and fair, as well as not being too friendly with the prisoners. This is a core feature of leadership in all contexts and is a difficult skill to acquire.
De-escalation and resilience
In prisons emotions can run high and it is an intense environment to work in. An excellent prison officer can calmly de-escalate situations before they become critical. Being able to calm down a potentially aggressive individual, even when they may not want your help is a very powerful skill to hold and will make any future potential work-based conflict easy to deal with.