Category: News

Thousands of top grads compete for elite prison officer scheme

++Graduate prison officer scheme doubles in size in year two ++
++ “A job where I can make a real difference” ++

Unlocked Graduates today announced the latest application figures for its pioneering prison officer leadership programme – revealing a dramatic growth among top graduates who want to play a frontline role in reforming the prison system.

This is only the second year of applications but the programme is on track to double in size – with over 100 new officers hoping to be placed in prisons in London and the South East this September. For the first time, this will include prisons in the youth and high security estates.

Over 4,500 graduates registered their interest in the programme in 2018 – more than doubling the interest Unlocked Graduates experienced in its inaugural year.

Over 1,600 people started the application, which this year included the option of a video submission alongside a traditional online form. This led to over 900 full applications for just 100 places.

Applicants studied a diverse range of subjects, from anthropology to theology. Students in the 2018 cohort include for the first time an economist and a biologist. One of the most popular subject amongst applicants was Law – representing a large number of candidates who would previously have considered becoming solicitors and barristers. Three quarters of the successful applicants are from our top 35 target universities, over half from the Russell Group, with four new officers coming from Oxford or Cambridge.

While the applicants are all graduates, they come from all walks of life. Reflecting a recent recruitment drive by Unlocked Graduates to attract teachers, many have a background in education. Several successful applications came from primary school teachers, teaching assistants, those teaching English as a foreign language, and support staff working with children who have Special Educational Needs.

The success of the recruitment drive means that Unlocked Graduates will be able to meet its second year target of doubling the number of prison officers it recruits, placing them into a wider range of prisons as well as entering the youth estate for the first time.

Unlocked Graduates continued its record of attracting a diverse cohort – just under 20 percent are from a BAME background. The programme continued to be particularly attractive to women with a 69 / 31 percent split between women and men.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said:
“I’m pleased to see a growing number of talented graduates applying to the Unlocked Graduates scheme – their desire to make a difference is inspiring.

“Prison officer numbers are at their highest level since 2013 which is vital to ensuring prisons can fulfil their purpose of protecting the public, reducing reoffending and rehabilitating offenders.”

Jack, a Geography graduate from University Oxford who has joined the scheme said:
“I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work in a prison. It’s not a career I would ever have considered before, but once I’d learnt a bit more about the impact you can have I was hooked on the idea. This is definitely a job where I feel I can make a real difference!”

Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates:
“We know that the prison system faces real challenges. And yet despite – or indeed because of – the way prisons are portrayed, we’re attracting phenomenal candidates who have the drive, curiosity and skills to meet those challenges. Just two years in, we’ve successfully established Unlocked Graduates as a unique option for the leaders of the future.”

The scheme is being delivered in partnership with the University of Suffolk. The students who complete the programme will be awarded with an MSc in Leadership and Custodial Environments.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Suffolk, Professor Mohammad Dastbaz, said, “The MSc Leadership and Custodial Environments as part of the Unlocked Graduates scheme marks a significant contribution to raising the status of the role of prison officer and recognising the highly-skilled and complex nature of the job. The masters’ degree is the first of its kind in the country.”

Ofsted head champions new prison education approach at Unlocked Graduates event

++ Unlocked Graduates encouraged to lead reform of prison education ++

Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s deputy chief inspector, used his speech today at the Unlocked Graduate’s Summer Institute to call for radical improvements to prison education. Speaking in Ipswich, where over 100 prospective prison officers are currently being training as part of the Unlocked Graduates programme, he argued that current standards often fall short of what employers expect.

Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates, commented:

“It was a great privilege to have Matthew come to Ipswich to discuss prison education directly with our new cohort of prison officers. All of our officers have been selected for their ability to inspire and lead prison reform, and we can never be complacent about standards within the prison system. There is no doubt that prison officers are crucial to leading rehabilitation in prison, and they can do much to advocate for education as part of that. And it’s very fitting that Matthew raised his concerns at an Unlocked Graduates event, since our programme was a direct recommendation of the Coates review of prison education.”

Matthew Coffey commented:

“Perhaps more importantly than what politicians can do, or government agencies like us, change also needs to come from the bottom up. Initiatives like the Unlocked Graduates programme have an important role to play in changing how we think about prisons and prisoners. I have no doubt that for the graduates joining the programme this year and starting their placements as prison officers there will be challenges aplenty. But hopefully lots of reward as well.”


Lords get Unlocked in Parliament

Celebration of pioneer Graduates as Unlocked comes up to one year celebration 

We were delighted to be hosted by Lord McNally for a reception at the House of Lords today, showcasing some early success stories from our first cohort of Unlocked Graduates.

There was a great turnout of both Lords and MPs from across the political spectrum, as well as supporters who have worked with Unlocked Graduates throughout our first year – from the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS to the wider criminal justice sector.

Read more Lords get Unlocked in Parliament

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

++ 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

Saving the taxpayer over £1billion every year

++The government could save at least £1billion a year by doubling the number of former prisoners in work or training++

Analysis by Unlocked Graduates, a charity which is recruiting top quality university leavers to join a two year programme to become prison officers, shows that out of the approximately 56,000 prisoners who are released from custody every year, only 4 in 10 – or 24,000 – end up in employment, education or training.

The government’s own official figures show that former prisoners are 7.5 percentage points less likely toreoffend if they were in work. Given the cost of reoffending by former prisoners to the economy is £15bn per year or just under £600,000 per reoffender, the government could, at a conservative estimate, save £1bn every year if just 1,800 fewer prisoners reoffended.

The statistics are published in the same week as the Work and Pensions Select Committee published the Government’s response to its report on the support for ex-offenders leaving prison. The initial suggestions indicate that the Government is looking at a number of options, including reducing National Insurance contributions, to incentivise employers to take on ex-offenders leaving prison.

Natasha Porter, the CEO of Unlocked Graduates, said:

“There are a number of reasons why former prisoners reoffend but it is clear is that when these men and women are in work, they are less likely to commit another crime.

“Supporting prisoners into work has the potential to save the taxpayer huge amounts of money every year. Work will also offer former prisoners the chance to reintegrate into society, giving them a chance to start over.

“While employment offers former prisoners the opportunity to reintegrate back into society, education is the gateway which gives them a real chance of finding work when they leave prison. With such clear evidence about the importance of work in reducing reoffending it is critical that we find ways to improve access to education as well. Unlocked Graduates will be tasked with doing exactly this, having a chance to reverse this worrying trend while improving the life chances of former prisoners and their families.”

Unlocked Graduates was launched before Christmas and the application scheme was opened on 9th January for the first cohort of graduates who will begin working in prisons in August. To date over 1,000 graduates have begun the application process to join the scheme. Participants will be selected on the basis of not only their academic credentials, but also their leadership and communications skills. Existing prison officers will act as mentors for the participants.

According to former prisoners who now work with Tempus Novo, a charity set up by prison officers to work with those who reoffend, having a job completely turned their lives around.

Richard Welsh, 27, who served 3 years, but had been in and out of prison prior to that, said:

“My job has stopped me from committing crime, otherwise I would have gone straight back in. I would have stopped earlier if I had had an opportunity to get a job before. Now I feel good, I feel positive because I have a wage coming in. I’ve even been through some training on the job already to get an opportunity for promotion.”

Paul Clough, 53, a former prisoner who served nine years, said:

“The main thing I found with working is that it gives you something to do. It gives you a purpose, if you come out with nothing to do, it’s hard to find direction. It’s hard enough coming out of prison and readjusting, but a job helps with that.”


Notes to editors

About Unlocked Graduates
Unlocked is a two-year leadership programme specifically aimed at encouraging the brightest and the best graduates to become prison officers. The programme is aimed at raising the status of the profession by attracting a different kind of leader to work in prisons and help identify ways to reform the prison system, reduce reoffending and improve rehabilitation. Participants will work alongside and be mentored by existing officers and will receive a Master’s degree on completion of the programme. After the two years, graduates can either continue their career in the prison service or become advocates for the scheme and rehabilitation in general in their future jobs.

Unlocked Graduates is supported in its incubation state by Catch22, the social business, so that it can become a successful independent organisation.

Our analysis
– Unlocked Graduates used the Ministry of Justice Proven Reoffending Statistics, April 2014-March 2015 to find the number of individuals leaving prison during the most recent year for which data is available. We have controlled for those who reoffended and left prison within the same year to avoid double counting. Including adult and juvenile offenders, 56,437 people left prison.
– According to analysis in the NOMS Annual Report 2014/15: Management Information Addendum, the proportion of prisoners leaving prison with an education or training opportunity is 16.1 per cent and the proportion of prisoners leaving prison with an employment outcome is 26.5 per cent – 42.6 percent in total. This means that we can estimate that of those that left prison, 24,042 went into work or training.
– Evidence from the Ministry of Justice’s Analysis of the impact of employment on re-offending following release from custody, using Propensity Score Matching shows that:
o Those former prisoners who had served custodial sentences of less than one year and entered employment on release, had a reoffending rate that was 9.4 percentage points lower than those prisoners who did not enter employment.
o For sentences of one year or more, prison entering employment after release had areoffending rate of 5.6 percentage points lower than those who did not enter employment.
We used a midpoint of 7.5 percentage points for a reduction in reoffending due to employment. This is likely to underestimate the impact that an increase in numbers of former prisoners in employment and education has as it isolates for just this factor.
The Government’s own figures say that if you allow for such other factors the chance of reoffendingis up to 37 per cent lower for those that have a job on release
– From this evidence, we were able to infer that doubling numbers in employment and education would lead to preventing an additional 1,803 former prisoners from reoffending.
– The latest Government estimates suggest that the cost of reoffending by former prisoners to the economy is £15bn per year. This amounts to £589,066 per reoffender – a saving of £1,062,085,998 per year if 1,803 fewer prisoners reoffended.

New scheme unveiled to attract top graduates to become prison officers

The Secretary of State for Justice backs Unlocked’s mission to raise the status of prison officers and to bring down reoffending rates.

Prison officers are the unsung heroes of the public sector and society should value the incredibly challenging and complex nature of their job, according to Unlocked, an independent charity which is launching a new scheme to encourage high-flying graduates to join the prison service.

Read more New scheme unveiled to attract top graduates to become prison officers