The Times: Can Unlocked, a new fast-track scheme that turns Britain’s brightest graduates into prison officers, really make a difference?

Rachel Sylvester of The Times visited HMP High Down to talk to a group of our pioneering prison officers working there, arguing that their arrival “could be the start of a revolution that will change the face of the criminal justice system:”

Scarlett is an intelligent and articulate law graduate who got a good degree from a prestigious university where she was president of the Law Society – but instead of applying for the Bar or pursuing a career with a top City law firm, she decided to become a prison officer. Her family were shocked – “Horrified was the exact word my mum used; she was worried about the danger,” the 21-year-old says. Her friends were also stunned by her unorthodox choice, but now they want to hear every detail of her job, which is far more exciting than their own. “They see the difference I’m making and realise that is why I want to be there.”

When she arrived seven months ago at HMP High Down, a local category B men’s jail in Surrey, it was in the grip of a Spice – synthetic marijuana – epidemic. Although the 1,200-unit prison is rapidly improving, under an impressive new female governor, there are frequent incidents of self-harm and violence. One inmate recently started a fire in his cell. “We’re trained for the worst-case scenario but I’ve only seen prisoners jumping up on the netting once,” Scarlett says. “Humour is everything in this job, de-escalating and building relationships. When it comes to preventing self-harm, prisoners will be able to open up to you if you’ve asked about their family or can have a laugh with them. They see you as a human being and you treat them as such. You think it’s all going to be aggression and action but actually it’s all about talking.”

Source: The Times
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