Category: Press coverage

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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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Guardian: ‘People think we just turn keys and shout orders’

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: The graduates trying to solve the prison crisis in England and Wales

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
Listen to the programme (from 5.45)
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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.

 

Times: Children in prison need skills to avoid reoffending trap

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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BBC News: Scheme brings graduates to front-line prison roles

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.

Read more BBC News: Scheme brings graduates to front-line prison roles

Radio 5 Live: Interview

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.