Category: Press coverage

Radio 5 caught up with Clo and Jack to see how they have been getting on after being prison officers for nearly a year.

BBC Radio 5 Live: Interview

Last year Radio 5 Live interviewed two of our Unlocked Graduates to find out why they joined the programme. Now, nearly a year on, Anna Foster caught up with Clo and Jack to see how they have been getting on in their prisons. She also interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the impact that the programme is having.

Source: BBC Radio 5 Live
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Rachel Sylvester of The Times visited HMP High Down to talk to a group of our pioneering prison officers working on the frontline.

The Times: Can Unlocked Make A Difference?

Rachel Sylvester of The Times visited HMP High Down to talk to a group of our pioneering prison officers working there, arguing that their arrival “could be the start of a revolution that will change the face of the criminal justice system:”

Scarlett is an intelligent and articulate law graduate who got a good degree from a prestigious university where she was president of the Law Society – but instead of applying for the Bar or pursuing a career with a top City law firm, she decided to become a prison officer. Her family were shocked – “Horrified was the exact word my mum used; she was worried about the danger,” the 21-year-old says. Her friends were also stunned by her unorthodox choice, but now they want to hear every detail of her job, which is far more exciting than their own. “They see the difference I’m making and realise that is why I want to be there.”

When she arrived seven months ago at HMP High Down, a local category B men’s jail in Surrey, it was in the grip of a Spice – synthetic marijuana – epidemic. Although the 1,200-unit prison is rapidly improving, under an impressive new female governor, there are frequent incidents of self-harm and violence. One inmate recently started a fire in his cell. “We’re trained for the worst-case scenario but I’ve only seen prisoners jumping up on the netting once,” Scarlett says. “Humour is everything in this job, de-escalating and building relationships. When it comes to preventing self-harm, prisoners will be able to open up to you if you’ve asked about their family or can have a laugh with them. They see you as a human being and you treat them as such. You think it’s all going to be aggression and action but actually it’s all about talking.”

Source: The Times
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Queen Mary University of London’s student newspaper The Print interviewed Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter and prison officer Imani about the programme.

The Print: A Baptism Of Fire

Queen Mary University of London’s student newspaper The Print interviewed Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Imani about her experiences as a frontline prison officer:

Whilst considering the economic and existential dread of a post-university life, the opportunity to work in a prison is not at the forefront of students’ minds. One Reform League recently deemed prisons, ‘a bloodbath of assaults, suicides and self-harm’, whilst in 2016, there were 65 assaults in prisons on both inmates and staff per day.

Yet, according to charitably funded Unlocked Graduates, the answer to this crisis is young and educated graduates, such as ourselves. With recruitment critically low and the need for effective reform becoming more apparent everyday, Unlocked offers a two-year graduate scheme that will throw our schooled and skilled selves into the heart of the crisis as Band 3 prison officers. Whether we’re willing to answer the call is another question.

The problem must be solved somehow. Natasha Porter, Unlocked’s CEO, told The Print: “You never get somewhere that has this many socioeconomic disadvantages in one location”. Over half of the people entering prison have the literacy skills of an eleven-year-old, 49% of the women and 23% of the men are diagnosed as anxious and depressed, almost a quarter of adult prisoners have been in care at some point in their lives, and 44% of adult prisoners reoffend within only one year of release.

Source: The Print
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Schools Week profiles Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter, examining how her experiences in teaching led her to the world of prison reform.

Schools Week: Profile of Natasha Porter

Schools Week profiles Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter, examining how her experiences in teaching led her to the world of prison reform:

Teach First is spawning. First there was Frontline, which applied the model to social care, and Think Ahead, focusing on mental health. Then came Police Now.

The latest spin-off to get off the ground is Unlocked Graduates, which aims to train up the “brightest, smartest” graduates to work as prison officers for two years, during which time they write a dissertation, gain a masters and pump out a slew of new prison policy ideas.

The charity doesn’t waste energy trying to persuade recruits to stay for longer, however. In fact, it positively wants some to leave.

“It sounds very counterintuitive,” explains CEO Natasha Porter, “but actually what we need are people across society advocating for the prison service.”

Source: Schools Week
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Russell Webster interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Scarlett about her first 100 days as prison officer.

Russell Webster: Unlocked Graduates on the prison wing

Russell Webster interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Scarlett about her first 100 days as prison officer:

It’s hard to believe only a year ago we were still finalising the battle to bring Unlocked into existence. The programme was a recommendation of the Coates Review of prison education. Both Dame Sally Coates and I were struck by the need to bring education into the heart of every prison, and recognised from our own professional experience that the best way to drive any initiative or culture shift is through those on the front line.

What makes this particularly challenging in a prison setting is the low status of the prison officer job, and the invisibility of the service, particularly with those in positions of power across society. I went through the Teach First programme myself where we tried to get top graduates to consider a job that was not previously on their radar. A similar model for the prison service seemed like an obvious way to start.

It was a genuine experiment. Other graduate schemes for teaching and social work focus on careers that have always been seen as ‘graduate’ professions. And a similar programme for the police, which is historically a non-graduate and uniformed profession, found that the police has always had good standing on campus. This is not true for the job of prison officer.

We wanted the prison officer role to have a similar status to these other challenging public service positions. Not that everyone who does the job needs to be or should be a graduate but, especially given the complexity and importance of the job, it should be viewed as the kind of role that graduate should consider alongside consulting or teaching or accountancy.

Source: Russell Webster
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BBC West Midlands Radio interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter as part of a feature on the current challenges facing prison officers.

BBC West Midlands: Interview

BBC West Midlands Radio interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter as part of a feature on the challenges facing prison officers at the moment. She shared some of the recent experiences of our participants and how they show how the job can also be very rewarding.

Source: BBC WM Radio
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Guardian journalist Amelia Hill interviewed several Unlocked Graduates and Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter to get an insight into the programme.

The Guardian: ‘People think we just turn keys’

Guardian journalist Amelia Hill interviewed several Unlocked Graduates, members of the justice system, and Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter to get an insight into the programme.

These are volatile times for prisons in England and Wales, with overcrowding and record levels of violence. Can a new scheme that aims to do what Teach First did in schools change things from the inside?

Jack has been at Brixton for just two months. During that time, he has been the subject of prisoners’ aggression and violence although, he hastens to add, the violence has always been at a low level – “so far, anyway”. He has begun to win the trust and respect of the men in the prison and, he hopes, he will go on to make a real difference to their lives.

“I love my job,” he grins, as he strides through the corridors, locking and unlocking doors every few paces with the enormous bunch of keys hanging from his belt. “I thought I’d find it fascinating, but I actually love it.

Source: The Guardian
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BBC Radio 1 visited HMP Brixton and spoke to several Unlocked Graduates about their experiences so far on the programme.

The BBC: The Graduates Trying To Solve The Prison Crisis

BBC Radio 1 visited HMP Brixton and spoke to several Unlocked Graduates about their experiences so far on the programme.

Winnie is one of 50 graduates who’ve been put in prisons across England and Wales to help save the system.

It’s hoped trainees from the new government scheme will help boost numbers in the profession and cut reoffending.

Source BBC Radio 1
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Children & Young People Now interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the aims of the programme, and plans for future expansion.

Unlocked targets social workers

Children & Young People Now interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the aims of the programme, and plans for future expansion:

A prison officer graduate recruitment scheme is expanding into the youth secure estate, targeting social workers and teachers looking for a change of career.

The Unlocked Graduates scheme already offers graduates a two-year master’s degree to become a prison officer in adult settings and has announced this will be extended into youth prisons.

Unlocked said it is keen to attract social workers and teachers with experience of supporting challenging children to the scheme. It said the aim of the initiative is to improve support for vulnerable young people held in custody, reduce reoffending, and improve rehabilitation.

Source: Children & Young People Now
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The Times Educational Supplement had an exclusive look at how Unlocked Graduates are encouraging teachers to join the scheme.

TES: Teachers encouraged to retrain as prison officers

The Times Educational Supplement had an exclusive look at how Unlocked Graduates are encouraging teachers to join the scheme, highlighting the specific skills they have that would transfer well to being a prison officer:

New charity sees itself as the ‘Teach First for prisons’ and is calling on overworked school staff to consider a switch.

A new charity has a bold proposition for teachers looking to cut their working hours but still do something socially meaningful.

The charity, Unlocked Graduates, is looking for talented graduates and career-switchers – particularly teachers – to train to be prison officers.

 

David Laws, Chair of Unlocked Graduates, writes for the Times on why he believes greater effort needs to be made on education for young offenders.

The Times: Children in prison need better support

David Laws, Chair of Unlocked Graduates writes for the Times on why he believes greater effort needs to be made on education for young offenders  as Unlocked launches a campaign to encourage more teachers and social workers to consider coming into the prison service:

Around 900 children are today locked away in England’s jails. Imprisoning a child is not undertaken lightly, so the offences concerned are likely to be serious, persistent or both. While this may mean public sympathy is limited, most people are aware that the average child offender is frequently as much victim as criminal. A third of sentenced children were living in care. The majority will have been born into chaotic, unsupported, unloving circumstances. There but by the grace of God . . .

Source:  The Times
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