Unlocked Graduates believes that to change prisons we need brilliant new prison officers and a greater public understanding of the challenges of this role. We want to talk about our work.

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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Children & Young People Now: Youth prison officer recruitment drive 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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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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Prison officer grad scheme expands into the youth prisons

++ Teachers and social workers encouraged to use their experience and apply ++

Following a successful first intake, the new prison officer graduate scheme Unlocked Graduates has announced that it will be expanding into the youth prison estate, offering exceptional graduates and career changers the chance to work with some of the most vulnerable children in the country.

In particular, the scheme will be targeting social workers and teachers to apply. The programme offers a way for these professionals to use their expertise with challenging children by stepping into the role of prison officer – which is the key pastoral support figure for imprisoned children.

Read more Prison officer grad scheme expands into the youth prisons

Unlocked responds to Lammy Review

The Lammy Review was released today. Chaired by David Lammy MP,  it was an investigation into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) individuals in the Criminal Justice System.

Welcoming the Review recommendations, Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates said:

“This report, in setting out such an honest assessment of the challenge in front of us, will help guide any organisation seeking to change the prison service. We are pleased that Mr Lammy acknowledged the success of Unlocked Graduates’ first year of recruitment. In our pioneer cohort, 1 in 5 were from a BAME background. This is only a start however and, as this report argues so strongly, there are some big challenges ahead for all prison officers if we are to build a criminal justice system that everyone can trust.”

New prison officer grad scheme unveils first participants from 100s of applications

++ 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.

Read more New prison officer grad scheme unveils first participants from 100s of applications

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