You’re bound to have questions about the programme and the role, and possibly some concerns so here are some direct answers to some direct questions.

  • Can I still apply if I don’t have a 2:1/300 UCAS points?

    Normally we only accept applications that meet our minimum academic requirements. However, where you have exceptional additional experience, or extenuating circumstances, there is space for you to put this on the application form and we will make an informed decision about your suitability for the programme.

  • Will I wear a uniform?

    Yes, as a full-time prison officer you are expected to wear a uniform within the regulations of the service. In most prisons this will include a belt with keys and a baton.

  • Will I be put in a prison by myself?

    No. We will be placing Unlocked officers in a minimum group of six in each prison.

  • Which prisons are you placing Unlocked officers in?

    We are placing in public prisons in Greater London and the South East for the first cohort. This will include men and women’s prisons, including reform prisons.

  • Can I choose where I am placed?

    As we are placing in a relatively small geographical area, within London and the South East, you will not be able to specify where you would like to be placed. However, if you have specific circumstances that govern where you can work, you can state these on the application form. We will try, where possible, to take this into account but we expect all candidates to be in a position to relocate within London or the South East.

    Similarly, you cannot specify which type of prison you would like to work in. We are looking for people who are motivated to work in all prison environments.

  • Can I work with young offenders?

    For our first cohort we will not be placing in the youth estate. There will however, be many young adults (18-24) in the prison environments in which you will be placed.

  • What is involved in the fitness and health check?

    Once you receive your conditional offer, you will need to complete a fitness and health check. This is the same check that all prison officers are required to undertake. The details are as follows:

    • You will be required to complete a health questionnaire, which will be analysed by a nursing practitioner. The questionnaire will explore your overall health and any existing conditions.
    • Your weight and height will be taken and your BMI calculated.
    • You will have an eye test. You must be able to meet a minimum of standard eyesight in both eyes. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, these can be worn, so don’t forget them.
    • Your blood pressure will be checked. If your blood pressure is higher than 170/80, it will be taken again. If after the second check, it still remains high, you will not be permitted to take part in the fitness test.

    The following fitness tests will be carried out:

    • Bleep test – This is running between a set of points in a given time period (Or bleeps). The bleeps will speed up as the levels of the test progress. To practise for this test, aim to be jogging for around twenty minutes and completing a distance of at least 1.5 miles.
    • Obstacle course – Don’t worry, this title is a little misleading. You will be required to run/jog in and out of a series of plastic cones within 34 seconds. Your jogging practise for the bleep test will more than cover any practise required here.
    • Riot shield test – You need to able to hold a 7kg shield in front of you, with one leg in front of the other, for 60 seconds. Any exercise that will strengthen your arms and upper body will be a good practise.
    • Grip test – Your grip will be tested by a piece of equipment that measures kilograms by force. You need to reach at least 25kg.
    • Push and pull resistance test This will test your strength by measuring the force of kilograms when you push/pull against the equipment provided. The minimum requirement is 35kg.
  • What is the master’s?

    The master’s qualification that you will work towards is an MSc in Leadership and Custodial Environments. It will be awarded by the University of Suffolk.

  • Do I need to be able to drive?

    It is not a requirement that you are able to drive. We ask this question on the application form to support us in our allocation process as there are some prisons that are more accessible by car.

  • Can I apply while I am in the process of getting a UK visa?

    Unfortunately, we cannot accept applications from candidates who do not have the right to work in the UK for the duration of the programme. Due to the tight timelines of the application process and enrolment, we cannot accept your application unless you already have the right to work here.

  • I can’t find my academic certificates; can I still apply?

    You will be asked to demonstrate proof of the academic requirements during the matriculation process after you have been made a conditional offer. At this point you must have access to your certificates. If you cannot locate them you may be required to apply for new certificates.

  • What counts as extenuating circumstances for exam results?

    If you have written confirmation from your university or school explaining why you under-performed expectations, this can be accepted as proof of extenuating or mitigating circumstances. For example, illness or personal circumstances at the time of your exams may have impacted your performance.

  • What are the working hours?

    The standard working hours for a prison officer are 37 hours, including 17% antisocial hours. You can also (and may be asked to) work overtime, for which you will receive additional pay.

    Since prison officers work in shifts, you will be required to work on night shifts, as well as during weekends and bank holidays.

  • How much will I earn?

    The national starting salary for Band 3 prison officers is between £27,224 – £30,064.

  • How quickly will I be promoted?

    For the duration of the programme, you will work as a Band 3 prison officer. You will have the opportunity to apply for promotion following on from this if you choose (and are accepted) to stay in the prison service.

  • What if I have a criminal record?

    Following your conditional offer, you will go through the Unlocked matriculation process, which will include some vetting questions and DBS clearance. Any evidence of a criminal record will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

  • I have a disability; does this matter?

    If your disability is likely to affect your performance in the role, this will be discussed at a later stage. You are, for example, required to successfully pass a fitness and health test because the role of a prison officer requires you to be extremely mobile.

  • Will I be in danger?

    A prison is a unique environment to work in. It is there to act as a punishment to criminals through the deprivation of liberty. Regardless of their past, few if any inmates want to be in prison and because of this, emotions can run high and incidents do occur. Some of these have received widespread coverage in the media recently.

    As a prison officer, you are on the frontline to face and deal with these incidents. It is therefore imperative that you are prepared for all eventualities. However, you will be highly trained and well-supported by colleagues, mentors and peers. Unlocked will do everything possible to ensure that you are prepared and confident to face a number of situations that may occur and that you feel safe in the working environment.

  • I already have a master's / PhD, can I still apply?

    Yes, you can still apply and you will not be required to pay anything towards the master’s.

  • What happens at the end of the two years?

    Following the programme, it is up to you whether you choose to stay in the service or move into a different sector. The skills that you have developed as a prison officer will put you in a strong position to pursue a leadership role in a wide variety of sectors.

  • If I am already a Prison Officer can I apply?

    No. Existing Prison Officers are not eligible to apply. The two-year leadership development programme is only available to graduates.

  • How can I get in contact with you if I need assistance?

    The Unlocked team are available to email if you are experiencing any difficulties with your application or if you have other unanswered questions. Please get in contact using:  hello@unlockedgrads.org