The role of a prison officer

Being an effective prison officer means fulfilling a variety of complementary roles that contribute to the protection, wellbeing and rehabilitation of the prisoners in your care.


Security and safety are, of course, fundamental parts of the job. The prison day runs to an established rhythm and part of your role will be to ensure that this continues with as little disruption as possible. There are rules to follow and, inevitably, there will be breaches of those rules. It will be your job both to identify problems before they happen and to tackle them when they do.

Relationship building

Prisons are communities and communities are all about relationships. A major part of your role will be to establish positive relationships with the prisoners in your care – to understand them as individuals – their motivations, concerns and behaviours. That means talking to them and listening. It means finding ways to build empathy. And it means looking out for issues and finding ways to address them before they become problems.


At the same time, it will be up to you to identify and capitalise on opportunities to help prisoners develop the skills and attitudes that will enable them to re-join society. Prisons offer a wide range of activities and training programmes that can help prisoners to acquire new or improve existing skills. As an officer you are the interface between prisoners and these activities and you can help them access activities that will enable them to change their lives after prison.

And, through the normal course of the day, you will have opportunities to help prisoners yourself. That could be arranging contact with family to ensure that important relationships don’t collapse, or it could mean helping a prisoner to read or work on a letter.

Or it could just mean helping them come to terms with what’s happening to them. Your job will be to recognise what is needed, and develop and implement plans to help individuals to access support and make better decisions.