Skip to content
We use cookies to improve your experience online. If you click Reject we will set a single cookie to remember your preference. Find out more in our terms & conditions.

Leading change
on the inside

Niyi, 2020 cohort

Leading change
on the inside

About us Back to top

Unlocked Graduates is working to break cycles of reoffending by identifying brilliant people and supporting them to spend two years working as frontline prison officers. We challenge them to come up with new ideas to improve the way prisons work across the country.

The Unlocked Graduates programme was one of the key recommendations of the Coates’ Review of prison education. The report argued that education needs to be put at the heart of the prison service if Government is serious about the rehabilitation of prisoners. It also called for the creation of a new scheme to encourage graduates from top universities to work as prison officers for an initial period of two years.

Unlocked Graduates was launched in 2016 to answer this challenge. Our programme has now been running for over five years and we have placed over 500 officers in prisons across London, the South East, West Midlands and North West of the UK.

Read our 2021 Impact Report.

Named Graduate Scheme of the Year at the 2018 Personnel Today Awards, ranked 37th in the Escape 100 awards in 2019, and rose to 36th place in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers in 2020, Unlocked has transformed the way the prison officer job is seen on campus.

Diversity, equality, inclusion in the prison system is a high priority for Unlocked. We celebrate the diversity of our participants, and put the full weight of our support behind campaigns and initiatives promoting equality and inclusion.

Our prison officers have received numerous accolades and early promotions – two of our participants recently received High Sheriff Awards for their excellent key-working and some of first cohort now manage our more recent recruits and other officers on the landings.

Unlocked Graduates was supported to success in its incubation state by Catch22, the social business and charity. Since 2020 we have operated independently as a registered charity.

We work in partnership with the Leeds Trinity University to deliver our Master’s degree. Find out more about how our partnerships and how you can support us.

#Read more about our executive team and board.

Natasha Porter

Chief Executive and Founder

Photo of Natasha Porter

Natasha is founder and CEO at Unlocked Graduates. She developed the concept while working with Dame Sally Coates on her review into prison education, and has led the organisation from its inception in 2016. Since then, Unlocked Graduates has recruited over 500 graduates to be prison officers, working with over 10,000 prisoners across the country.

Natasha has a background in public sector start up and was previously a teacher and senior leader in inner city schools. This included co-founding King Solomon Academy and leading their frontier cohort to groundbreaking GCSE results in 2014. Natasha has also worked as a government adviser and in the Westminster think tank Policy Exchange.

In her spare time, Natasha is an advisor to the Children’s Commissioner and a charity trustee at Impetus PEF and Get Further, with a particular interest in improving outcomes for vulnerable and disadvantaged children. She also sits on the Grants and Evaluation committee at the Youth Endowment Fund and the Building Future’s Advisory Board at Prison Reform Trust.

Maria Donovan

Recruitment Director

Photo of Maria Donovan

Maria is an experienced graduate recruiter. As part of the start-up team for Think Ahead, a scheme to recruit graduates to be mental health social workers, she successfully recruited the first cohort of 100 to this new programme and built their brand so successfully that they appeared on the Times Top 100 graduate recruiters in their second year of recruitment. Before this, she was a recruiter for Teach First where she attracted 1 in 10 Oxford finalists to apply to the programme. Maria is also a Teach First Ambassador, having completed their Leadership Development Programme while teaching for two years in Birmingham.

Bodil Isaksen

Chief Operating Officer

Photo of Bodil Isaksen

Bodil joined Unlocked Graduates as an experienced leading adult trainer who has a passion for researching and applying the best teaching and learning techniques. She has spoken widely on these issues and been a course tutor for BPP’s PGCE (post-graduate certificate in education) as well as contributing to two books on initial training and continuing professional development. Bodil was a founding teacher and Head of Department at Michaela Community School, a free school in Brent. She is a Teach First Ambassador and spent two years as a Maths teacher in a Lee Valley school.

Sarah Pearson

External Relations Director

Photo of Sarah Pearson

Sarah joined Unlocked from the New Schools Network where she built the campaigns function and acted as interim director. Prior to this she was Associate Director at public affairs and corporate communications agency Hanover where she led a range of projects, specialising in health and education campaigns that involved partnerships between the public, third and private sectors for clients both in the UK and across Europe. She is also a school governor at Frith Manor Primary School.

Libby Gray

Programme Director

Photo of Libby Gray

Libby joined Unlocked in 2017, heading up the south region before moving into her current role as Programme Director. Libby brings experience of education, teacher training and leadership development.  She trained as a teacher in 2009 before moving to work at charity, Teach First, where she designed and delivered teacher training. The travel bug kicked in 2014, and Libby moved to Hong Kong where she took up the post of Head of English, and later, Vice Principal in an international school.

Rt Hon David Laws

Chair and Executive Chair of EPI

Photo of Rt Hon David Laws

David is the executive chairman of the Education Policy Institute, and the Education Partnerships Group – the international arm of the Ark education charity. Alongside this, David is a senior adviser to GK Strategy, a Trustee for the Teacher Development Trust, an advisory council member for Future First, and Chairman of the UPP Advisory Board. Following roles at J.P. Morgan and Barclays, David left the City to work in politics. David was elected MP for Yeovil in 2001, and served in this capacity until 2015. From 2012 to 2015 David was Schools Minister and Minister of State in the Cabinet Office.

Dame Sally Coates

Board member and Director of Academies United Learning

Photo of Dame Sally Coates

Sally is Director of all United Learning Secondary Academies. She also chaired The Dame Sally Coates’ Review of Prison Education. She joined United Learning in September 2014. Her previous role was as Principal of Burlington Danes Academy, which she turned around from one of the lowest performing to one of the highest performing schools in the country. She was acting as Executive Principal at Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton until July 2012 and Executive Principal of Ark Putney and West London Free School until July 2014. Prior to that, Sally was Head of Sacred Heart School an Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ VA school in Camberwell, London Borough of Southwark. Sally chaired The Review of the Teaching Standards and most recently chaired the Skills Test Review. She also served as a member of the Key Stage 2 Test Review Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Bew. Sally was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2013 New Year’s Honours List.

Chris Wright

Board member and CEO of Catch22

Photo of Chris Wright

Chris is Chief Executive of Catch22. He leads the team of 1,800 staff and volunteers that in 2015/16 supported 30,000 people in over 100 locations. Chris originally trained as a probation officer and in 1999 established Nottingham’s first multi-agency Youth Offending Team. From there he moved to the Youth Justice Board as Head of Performance where he led on developing and implementing a performance management framework for the Youth Justice System. He joined Rainer, which became Catch22, in 2006. Chris is an advocate for the social enterprise sector playing a key role in the delivery of public services. As a result, Catch22 is known both for its innovative and collaborative approach to justice, education, employability and social care.

James Darley

Board member and CEO of Transformation Trust

Photo of James Darley

James has been working in Graduate Recruitment for over 20 years and in late 2018 he spotted an opportunity to build on nearly 15 years’ experience with Teach First to help address the wider public service leadership challenge the UK by setting up the charity ‘Transform Society’ an alliance of the five programmes recruiting top talent into the most needed roles in society (Teach First, Frontline, Police Now, Think Ahead and Unlocked). In addition, he supports Teach for All and their partners across the world with marketing, positioning, scale, partnerships and recruitment. James is a founding Trustee of Frontline, Police Now, Think Ahead and Unlocked, and an advisory board member of The Springboard Bursary Foundation. James also supports a number of university employer/career services including Birmingham, York and Leicester.

Robert Farquharson

Board member and Principal at Doughty Hanson

Photo of Robert Farquharson

Having started his career in Commercial Property Finance at Continental Bank and HSBC, Robert recently retired from a role as Head of European Real Estate and member of the Investment Committee at Doughty Hanson. For 12 years before this he was CEO of The Langham Estate. Robert has a longstanding commitment to social mobility, especially in the context of education. He served as Vice Chair of Governors at Cambridge School in Hammersmith, a special educational needs school, which led to him becoming a Founding Governor of Skinners’ Academy in Hackney and subsequently Chair of Governors, providing a critical link between the sponsoring livery company and the school.

Nicola Marfleet

Board Member and Governor, HMP Woodhill

Photo of Nicola Marfleet

Nicola Marfleet has over 20 years of experience of working within the Prison Service. She started out on the frontline as a prison officer in 2000.  Since then, she has worked in a wide variety prisons across the country. Her roles have spanned institutions serving women and young people through to the high security male estates. These have included HMP East Sutton Park, HMP Swaleside, HMP Elmley, HMP Pentonville, and HMP Woodhill, where she currently leads in her role as Governor.

Nicola is passionate about developing potential in teams, growing leaders, and mentoring women in the workplace.  She speaks widely on team dynamics and shifting culture within the workplace, and is a guest lecturer for Leadership College London.

Karan Rai

Board member and Unlocked Ambassador

Photo of Karan Rai

Karan is a 2018 Unlocked Graduates Ambassador having spent two-years as a frontline Prison Officer at Her Majesty’s Youth Offender Institute Aylesbury and having worked on a group Policy Paper presented to the Secretary of State for Justice on prison reform.

He is a former Youth Ambassador for the anti-racism and discrimination in football charity Kick It Out, working on various projects for the organisation and advising them on how best to tackle racism and discrimination in football from a youth perspective.

In 2018, Karan was identified as one of twelve ‘Gamechangers’ by Kick It Out, an initiative supported by the UEFA Foundation, Premier League and UCFB aiming to identify and create the future leaders of football, inspiring them to bring positive change to the sport with regards to equality, inclusion and cohesion, and in turn help to address the under-representation of minority groups across the industry.

Karan also has extensive frontline experience of voluntary teaching, having worked on education projects in China, Hungary, Morocco, and Ghana. He is also a volunteer at the Longford Trust, where he is mentoring a former prisoner through their university degree.

Emma Wilson

Board Member and Consultant

Photo of Emma Wilson

Emma is a qualified solicitor who has worked for law firms such as Allen & Overy and as the head of legal in various multinationals. She now operates as a consultant providing legal support and management skills training to lawyers.

Emma’s involvement in the criminal justice system ranges from her experience as a referral order panel member, volunteer for the charity StoryBook Dads, an advisor for Children Heard and Seen and as an Independent Monitoring Board member at a women’s prison. She has experience as a trustee of various charities and is currently also a trustee of Unlock (a charity for people with criminal records).

Danielle Dodd

Head of Region (South)

Photo of Danielle Dodd

Danielle started her career in the prison service in 2008 working with female prisoners, before moving to work across a range of establishments where she trained new staff and worked as a Custodial Manager.

Danielle initially joined Unlocked Graduates in 2017 as a Mentoring Prison Officer (MPO) on secondment, and now works as Head of Region (South) developing and training our MPO’s, overseeing participant progress and building relationships across our placement prisons in London and the South East. Danielle has a passion for developing staff and supporting mental health. She is a Mental Health First Aid Instructor for both the Adult and Youth qualifications.

Bella Atkinson

Head of Region (North)

Photo of Bella Atkinson

Bella joined Unlocked in 2019 as Head of Region (North) overseeing the expansion into working with prisons across Greater Manchester and then the Midlands.

Bella has expertise in Education, leadership development, coaching and management.  Having started her career as a Spanish teacher and head of department at an academy in London,  Bella then moved to Manchester where she worked for education charity Teach First in a variety of roles, supporting and training teachers and managing teams, for eight years.

Mike Romano

Regional Manager (South)

Photo of Mike Romano

Mike joined the Prison Service in 2005, working at HMP Wandsworth as an Operational Support Grade before becoming a Prison Officer in 2007.  He has undertaken several roles, including that of a POELT Mentor for new staff where he was introduced to the Unlocked programme. In 2020, Mike joined Unlocked Graduates in the role of Regional Manager (South).

Samantha Farr

Head of Delivery

Photo of Samantha Farr

Samantha started with Unlocked in 2020 as the Programme and Events Manager, before moving into her current role as Head of Delivery.

Samantha has a background in events within the higher education sector. She previously worked at University College London (UCL), and the University of London (SOAS), where she lead the organisation of recruitment events and graduation ceremonies.

Jack Anderson

Programme Officer

Photo of Jack Anderson

Jack joined Unlocked as a member of the first cohort of Unlocked Graduates in 2017, where he worked as a Prison Officer at HMP Brixton. After completing the two-year programme, he worked as a Project Coordinator for a charity called User Voice; helping them mobilise two new service user council projects in the South West of England.

Following this role, Jack returned to Unlocked Graduates as a Programme Officer to assist in their recruitment of the 2021 cohort of Unlocked Graduates.

Khadija Lewis

Attraction Manager

Photo of Khadija Lewis

Khadija joined Unlocked Graduates as the Attraction Manager in 2021. As Attraction Manager she leads the attraction team in building the Unlocked brand profile, attracting candidates to the programme and ensuring a smooth and professional candidate journey for all those who come through the process of applying to Unlocked.

Khadija has worked in graduate recruitment since leaving university in 2017. She started her career as a recruitment intern at Frontline, where she supported the team with their attraction, selection and admissions processes. She then went on to work at The Challenge, recruiting seasonal staff for the National Citizens Service programme, before going back to work for Frontline as a Recruitment Officer primarily focussing on attraction for the leadership development programme.

Sophie Reynolds

Recruitment Officer (Selection)

Photo of Sophie Reynolds

Sophie joined the Unlocked Recruitment Team in August 2020 with an aim of using her frontline experience to contribute to the design and delivery of the Unlocked Graduates assessment centres. She is an Unlocked ambassador and spent two years as a prison officer at HMP Wormwood Scrubs. During her time there, she worked on one of the largest prison wings in Europe housing mainly young males in prison for gang-related offences. She spent the final 6-months of the programme on the mental health unit and worked with a team of psychiatrists and occupational therapists to care for prisoners with serious mental illnesses.

Sophie was successful in gaining funds to initiate the first ever Parkrun at HMP Wormwood Scrubs as part of the Innovation Acceleration Fund. She also wrote a dissertation on the impacts of the prison officer role on prison officer’s mental wellbeing.

Jack Palmer

Recruitment Officer (Attraction)

Photo of Jack Palmer

Jack joined Unlocked as a Recruitment Officer in September 2021. He works to attract graduates and career changers to help lead change as prison officers on the front line. Jack also assesses potential candidates and supports successful ones throughout their offer journey. Jack has a BSc in Mathematics and previously completed BT’s graduate programme. He is a rugby fan and a proud Welshman.

Sara Mochnacz

Communications and Digital Officer

Photo of Sara Mochnacz

Sara joined Unlocked Graduates as the Communications and Digital Officer in 2021. She received her BA (Honours) in Politics and Social Policy in 2018 from the University of Kent and then went on to work as the Communications and Media Intern for UN Women in Fiji.

Sara received an MSc in Social Policy and Social Problems from the University of Amsterdam. She is passionate about communications, social policy and is committed to telling the untold story of prisons and breaking stereotypes surrounding the role of the prison officer.

Iona Thompson

Development and Partnerships Officer

Photo of Iona Thompson

Iona joined the Unlocked External Relations team in 2021 as a Development and Partnerships Officer. She supports Unlocked’s relationships with our corporate partners and funders as well as helping to coordinate our work placement scheme and IAP programme.

Before joining Unlocked, Iona completed the Teach First programme and taught Humanities at secondary schools in Portsmouth and London for five years, including Michaela Community School. She took a keen interest in mentoring pupils at risk of exclusion and leading outreach work in schools. She is passionate about ensuring that the Unlocked mission is amplified so we can reduce reoffending in the UK.

Ben Gerrard

Trainee Assistant Accountant

Photo of Ben Gerrard

Ben joined Unlocked as a Trainee Assistant Accountant in September 2021. He received his BA (Honours) in International Development with Economics in 2020 from the University of East Anglia and then went on to work as an Advocacy and Partnerships Intern for an international Social Enterprise network. He is interested in social impact and charity finance and is currently undertaking his professional accountancy training qualification as part of his job role.