Hidden Heroes Day

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Hidden Heroes Day

“Hidden Heroes Day is a chance for people to pay tribute to the usually unsung hidden heroes who work in prisons, IRCs, probation and youth justice across the UK.” 
– The Butler Trust 
As frontline workers, prison officers have more contact with prisoners than any other professionals, and so have the power to make a real difference.

This year, to celebrate and recognise hidden heroes across the UK, we talked with one of Unlocked Graduates’ Mentoring Prison Officers, Phoebe Light.

Phoebe joined Unlocked as a participant 2017 and is currently working as a Mentoring Prison Officer supporting participants at HMP Belmarsh and Wormwood Scrubs.

What does being a frontline worker mean to you? 

I think it’s about making a difference in a job that most of society forgets about and working with the most vulnerable individuals in our society after other systems have already failed them. As prison officers, we’re definitely the last resort for many, and it’s about guiding them into a path of rehabilitation. It’s a shame that when we do have our successes, we often don’t get to see them

How has the pandemic impacted prison officers work? 

The pandemic has definitely made it hard for prisoners. As we’ve had an added element of pressure to ensure that prisoners remain safe. That’s not only from the coronavirus but also in terms of their mental wellbeing. With the pandemic, a lot of prisoners have had to be in their cells 23 hours a day. If not more in some extreme cases, which obviously impacts their mental wellbeing.

We had to find ways to communicate with the prisoners to ensure that they’re safe, they’re okay and that they’re still finding ways to work towards their rehabilitation. Whether that’s ensuring they do their classroom work in their cell, or if they need more support contact in their family, or just being able to listen to them if they’re struggling.

Who are your heroes in the prison service? 

All prison officers are heroes in my eyes for doing the job that they do. For me personally, my biggest hero is Stuart Beharry, he was my mentoring prison officer back in 2017 when I joined the prison service through Unlocked. He was there to support me and guide me, and even after I completed the Unlocked programme, he was still there to provide support. Nothing is ever too much to ask for, he always has the prisoner’s best interest at the forefront of every decision that he makes, as well as being the most supportive custodial manager I’ve ever met. He’s definitely my hero.

Can you tell me about a prison officer who has gone above and beyond to provide care for a prisoner? 

Definitely one of my participants, who had a conversation with a prisoner that changed their life. She made a prisoner feel so comfortable that they disclosed their concern about getting an autism diagnosis. They felt that they were autistic but had never had the courage to do an assessment. By having a chat with them, she made them feel confident enough to work with the health care department to get an assessment. They had their assessment and were diagnosed with autism, which then allowed a lot of processes both in prison and in outer society to change and support them. That was just one conversation she had with this prisoner. They later approached her and told her that she had literally changed their life.
What kind of recognition do you feel prison officers deserve? 

I do feel like there should be more recognition for the hard work that we do as prison officers. Unfortunately, we’re not in the public eye so it’s easy to be forgotten. I think that working as a prison officer can encompass all the elements that other respected emergency services carry out. We put out fires, and do first aid, we split up fights like the police. We are all three emergency services put together.