Programme structure

The Unlocked Graduates programme in leadership for rehabilitation is a bespoke new course aimed at supporting the development of inspirational leaders within the prison system.

Summer Institute

  • Contextual knowledge lectures on custodial care
  • Leadership theory seminars
  • Influencing and communication sessions
  • Technical expertise and jail craft practice
  • Reflective discussion and supervision

Year 1

  • Weekly one-to-one coaching
  • Fortnightly half-day practice-based training
  • Fortnightly group supervision time
  • Distance learning through University of Suffolk Virtual Learning Environment
  • Five contextual knowledge teaching days on custodial care, rehabilitation and desistance
  • Presentation and networking events

Returners’ Week

  • Research methods lectures
  • Introduction to dissertation and policy paper
  • Presentations and sharing best practice

Year 2

  • Workshops on research methods
  • Writing dissertation and, optionally, a policy paper
  • Weekly group supervision time
  • Individualised next-step career coaching
  • Ten-day work placement in a corporate or third-sector organisation
  • Overview

    At the end of the two years, you’ll have earned an MSc in Custodial Care and Leadership, and be a qualified prison officer. You’ll also have developed softer skills, from persuasion to presentation giving that are needed to have an impact wherever you end up career-wise.

    As an Unlocked Graduates participant, you will receive a comprehensive package of training throughout the two years, which will encompass the practical skills required to be an exceptional rehabilitative prison officer; the academic context enabling you to take a reflective and critical approach to custodial care; and the leadership-focused skills to set you up for success in whatever you choose to do after the two years.

    The teaching provides specialist knowledge and advanced understanding of the custodial environment that will enhance your daily professional practice as a serving prison officer. It will also enable you to embed academically informed, evidence-based performance in the workplace – changing attitudes and perceptions and encouraging new approaches that support rehabilitation. By understanding, modelling and disseminating this ‘what works philosophy’, you will develop the skills to influence strategic and operational planning and practice, both within prisons, and in business and other public sector settings. You’ll become someone who can set goals and lead teams and individuals to achieve them.

  • Delivery

    The programme will be delivered by a combination of experienced prison trainers, our MPOs (Mentoring Prison Officers), and academics from the University of Suffolk. The course leader of the Master’s degree is Helen Arnold, a Lecturer in Criminology at University of Suffolk and a Visiting Scholar at the University of Cambridge. Helen also works as a consultant for the Prison Service and as a Research Officer for Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons.

  • Summer Institute

    Your journey starts with a six-week residential Summer Institute which will combine seminars, lectures, and practical sessions. A typical day may include:

    • A group supervision processing concerns, fears and experiences of the past week with 7 other participants who will be placed in your prison. This will be facilitated by your Mentoring Prison Officer, an experienced officer seconded to Unlocked who will be your closest support through the two years.
    • A leadership seminar looking at Goleman’s different leadership styles
    • A lecture delivered by a lecturer at the University of Suffolk about the history and function of imprisonment over time, developing your critical understanding of the academic literature.
    • A two-hour practical session given by experienced prison trainers on use of your radio.
    • An interactive seminar on effective de-escalation techniques, drawing on best practice from social work, army hostage negotiators and business.
    • A further two-hour practical session on how to respond to verbal aggression.
  • Year 1

    After the six-weeks of initial training, you will embark on an intensive support and training programme throughout your first year. A typical week might include:

    • One-to-one coaching with your Mentoring Prison Officer, with individualised feedback and action steps based on observation in your prison and video footage.
    • A group supervision based on the principles of supervision from psychotherapy and social work with the seven other Unlocked participants in your placement prison – a chance to share and process challenging incidents in a supportive, developmental setting.
    • Preparation for an upcoming Learning Day on the success of the rehabilitative prison agenda, reading key articles on the University Virtual Learning Environment.
    • 5 hours of training about assertiveness, refining aspects like word choice, projection and posture, followed by another 1.5 hours of training on challenging negative thinking patterns in prisoners and colleagues.

    The first year will end with a week-long Returners Week, which is a chance to reflect and share best practice with your Unlocked Graduates cohort, as well as meeting the cohort below you.

  • Year 2

    In the second year, you will continue to learn in and out of your placement prison, but the programme’s focus will move to concentrating on impact and next steps.

    • The opportunity to write a policy paper delivered to the Secretary of State will allow you to have an impact system-wide. This will draw on your Master’s dissertation and workshops on research methods provided by the University.
    • Continued access to one-to-one coaching and group supervisions, in which you will now take more ownership, will ensure you continue to refine and improve your practice.
    • You will be aided to engage in broader rehabilitative efforts in your prison, whether it’s setting up a book club or working with governors to improve systems.
    • Tailored career guidance will support you whether you’re interested in government policy, leadership in a prison, a corporate role, or the third sector.
    • A ten-day work placement in a corporate or third sector organisation, allowing you to broaden your leadership experience to another field.
  • Accreditation

    The programme elements lead to

    • A Diploma in the Management and Care of Individuals in the Custodial Environment, awarded by Skills For Justice, meaning you are a qualified prison officer able to work in any public prison across the UK.
    • A Master’s degree from the University of Suffolk in Leadership and Custodial Environments.

    Skills For Justice is the foremost awarding organisation used by the Ministry of Justice for its prison officer training. The University of Suffolk is a prominent provider of transformational, work-based qualifications with Virtual Learning Environment and flexible teaching/assessment structures that are the optimal way to combine your full time prison officer role with the demands of a Master’s degree.