Category: Press coverage

The i interviewed Sam about her first year as an Unlocked prison officer:

i News: Why Would A 21-Year-Old Want To Be A Prison Officer?

The i’s Pascale Hughes interviewed Sam about her first year as an Unlocked Graduates prison officer:

Sam was still a teenager when she decided she wanted to work in the prison service. She knew little about life behind bars, but it seemed like a place where she could make a difference. “You see on the news how people get lost in the system,” she says. “By being an officer you’re able to change someone’s life – even if its one out of a million.”

Her parents thought she would change her mind. But at the age of 21 – armed with a psychology degree from Aston University – she signed up to a pioneering training scheme that has seen her working for a year in a young offenders institution in south east London.

Organised by the charity Unlocked, it is based on the Teach First scheme which places graduate teachers in schools in low-income areas. Both projects aim to get ambitious graduates to work in sectors that have not traditionally appealed to high flyers. This year, more than 900 applied for 100 places.

Source: i News
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ITV reports on the 2018 cohort of new Unlocked prison officers.

ITV News: Graduates Join Fight To Reform Prisons

ITV News reports on the 2018 cohort of new Unlocked Graduates:

A degree from an elite university opens doors – now, hundreds of top graduates are competing to unlock them in jails.

From this month, prison officer ranks will be boosted by the arrival of new recruits with qualifications from leading institutions including Oxbridge.

Just over 100 successful applicants are poised to start work in jails in London and the South East after successful applications to the Unlocked Graduates scheme.

The two-year programme, which was launched in 2016, sees participants complete a masters degree while working on the frontline alongside existing jail staff.

Those joining the service under the initiative are paid the same entry level salary as other prison officers – up to £30,000 depending on where they are posted.

Source: ITV News
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The Daily Mail reports on the 2018 cohort of new Unlocked prison officers.

Daily Mail: From Lectures To Lock-Up

The Daily Mail reports on the 2018 cohort of new Unlocked Graduates:

A degree from an elite university opens doors – now, hundreds of top graduates are competing to unlock them in jails.

From this month, prison officer ranks will be boosted by the arrival of new recruits with qualifications from leading institutions including Oxbridge.

Just over 100 successful applicants are poised to start work in jails in London and the South East after successful applications to the Unlocked Graduates scheme.

The two-year programme, which was launched in 2016, sees participants complete a masters degree while working on the frontline alongside existing jail staff.

Those joining the service under the initiative are paid the same entry level salary as other prison officers – up to £30,000 depending on where they are posted.

Source: The Daily Mail
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Radio 5 caught up with Clo and Jack to see how they have been getting on after being prison officers for nearly a year.

BBC Radio 5 Live: Interview

Last year Radio 5 Live interviewed two of our Unlocked Graduates to find out why they joined the programme. Now, nearly a year on, Anna Foster caught up with Clo and Jack to see how they have been getting on in their prisons. She also interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the impact that the programme is having.

Source: BBC Radio 5 Live
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Rachel Sylvester of The Times visited HMP High Down to talk to a group of our pioneering prison officers working on the frontline.

The Times: Can Unlocked 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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Queen Mary University of London’s student newspaper The Print interviewed Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter and prison officer Imani about the programme.

The Print: A Baptism Of Fire

Queen Mary University of London’s student newspaper The Print interviewed Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Imani about her experiences as a frontline prison officer:

Whilst considering the economic and existential dread of a post-university life, the opportunity to work in a prison is not at the forefront of students’ minds. One Reform League recently deemed prisons, ‘a bloodbath of assaults, suicides and self-harm’, whilst in 2016, there were 65 assaults in prisons on both inmates and staff per day.

Yet, according to charitably funded Unlocked Graduates, the answer to this crisis is young and educated graduates, such as ourselves. With recruitment critically low and the need for effective reform becoming more apparent everyday, Unlocked offers a two-year graduate scheme that will throw our schooled and skilled selves into the heart of the crisis as Band 3 prison officers. Whether we’re willing to answer the call is another question.

The problem must be solved somehow. Natasha Porter, Unlocked’s CEO, told The Print: “You never get somewhere that has this many socioeconomic disadvantages in one location”. Over half of the people entering prison have the literacy skills of an eleven-year-old, 49% of the women and 23% of the men are diagnosed as anxious and depressed, almost a quarter of adult prisoners have been in care at some point in their lives, and 44% of adult prisoners reoffend within only one year of release.

Source: The Print
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Schools Week profiles Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter, examining how her experiences in teaching led her to the world of prison reform.

Schools Week: Profile of Natasha Porter

Schools Week profiles Unlocked Graduates CEO Natasha Porter, examining how her experiences in teaching led her to the world of prison reform:

Teach First is spawning. First there was Frontline, which applied the model to social care, and Think Ahead, focusing on mental health. Then came Police Now.

The latest spin-off to get off the ground is Unlocked Graduates, which aims to train up the “brightest, smartest” graduates to work as prison officers for two years, during which time they write a dissertation, gain a masters and pump out a slew of new prison policy ideas.

The charity doesn’t waste energy trying to persuade recruits to stay for longer, however. In fact, it positively wants some to leave.

“It sounds very counterintuitive,” explains CEO Natasha Porter, “but actually what we need are people across society advocating for the prison service.”

Source: Schools Week
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Russell Webster interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Scarlett about her first 100 days as prison officer.

Russell Webster: Unlocked Graduates on the prison wing

Russell Webster interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter about the programme, and Scarlett about her first 100 days as prison officer:

It’s hard to believe only a year ago we were still finalising the battle to bring Unlocked into existence. The programme was a recommendation of the Coates Review of prison education. Both Dame Sally Coates and I were struck by the need to bring education into the heart of every prison, and recognised from our own professional experience that the best way to drive any initiative or culture shift is through those on the front line.

What makes this particularly challenging in a prison setting is the low status of the prison officer job, and the invisibility of the service, particularly with those in positions of power across society. I went through the Teach First programme myself where we tried to get top graduates to consider a job that was not previously on their radar. A similar model for the prison service seemed like an obvious way to start.

It was a genuine experiment. Other graduate schemes for teaching and social work focus on careers that have always been seen as ‘graduate’ professions. And a similar programme for the police, which is historically a non-graduate and uniformed profession, found that the police has always had good standing on campus. This is not true for the job of prison officer.

We wanted the prison officer role to have a similar status to these other challenging public service positions. Not that everyone who does the job needs to be or should be a graduate but, especially given the complexity and importance of the job, it should be viewed as the kind of role that graduate should consider alongside consulting or teaching or accountancy.

Source: Russell Webster
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BBC West Midlands Radio interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter as part of a feature on the current challenges facing prison officers.

BBC West Midlands: Interview

BBC West Midlands Radio interviewed Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter as part of a feature on the challenges facing prison officers at the moment. She shared some of the recent experiences of our participants and how they show how the job can also be very rewarding.

Source: BBC WM Radio
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Guardian journalist Amelia Hill interviewed several Unlocked Graduates and Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter to get an insight into the programme.

The Guardian: ‘People think we just turn keys’

Guardian journalist Amelia Hill interviewed several Unlocked Graduates, members of the justice system, and Unlocked CEO Natasha Porter to get an insight into the programme.

These are volatile times for prisons in England and Wales, with overcrowding and record levels of violence. Can a new scheme that aims to do what Teach First did in schools change things from the inside?

Jack has been at Brixton for just two months. During that time, he has been the subject of prisoners’ aggression and violence although, he hastens to add, the violence has always been at a low level – “so far, anyway”. He has begun to win the trust and respect of the men in the prison and, he hopes, he will go on to make a real difference to their lives.

“I love my job,” he grins, as he strides through the corridors, locking and unlocking doors every few paces with the enormous bunch of keys hanging from his belt. “I thought I’d find it fascinating, but I actually love it.

Source: The Guardian
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