Record numbers of graduates go straight to jail

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Record numbers of graduates go straight to jail

#The biggest ever cohort of prison officers to join the service through the Unlocked Graduates scheme step on to prison wings this week.

Over 130 new officers are taking up roles at 23 prisons across the country, revealing the growing desire of top graduates to play a frontline role in reforming the prison system.

More than 7,000 graduates registered their interest in the programme – up from just over 5,000 in the previous year. This led to more than 1,700 full applications or 14 applications per place.

The interest from graduates in the prison officer role was further underscored as the Times Top 100 Graduate Employer were published today. They show the Unlocked scheme rising 13 places to number 36.


For the first time, the programme will place officers in prisons in the West Midlands as well as expanding in the North West and South East. The wide geographic spread means that these new prison officers are joining adult male, female and youth estate establishments as well as high-security prisons.

Applicants studied a diverse range of subjects, from chemistry to philosophy, as well as computer science, anthropology and biomedical science. Over half came from the Russell Group, with three new officers joining from Oxford or Cambridge.

Unlocked Graduates continued its record of attracting a diverse cohort – 15 percent are from a BAME background and the programme continued to be particularly attractive to women who make up 67 percent of the cohort.

Ayeisha, a Geography graduate from University of Cambridge who has joined the scheme and will be working at HMP Wandsworth said:

“Prison officer was not a job I ever imagined doing but, when I started looking for roles where I could make a real difference and challenge myself, this graduate scheme really stood out.

“I wanted to do something that would stretch me and, with everything going on in the world at the moment, being a keyworker feels like a way to make a real contribution.”

Natasha Porter, CEO of Unlocked Graduates added:

“Now more than ever, recent graduates and career changers want to find meaningful roles with a social purpose. There are graduate schemes for lawyers, social workers and teachers. All of them make a difference, but taking on the £18 billion challenge of reoffending from the frontline of prisons makes you the special forces of keyworkers.

“Heading to prison after you graduate may sound a bit dramatic, but as we open for applications, we hope that even more graduates will start thinking of prison as a bold way make a big difference in society.”

Prisons Minister Lucy Frazer QC MP, said:

“Prison officers remain the hidden heroes of our public service and too often it is not a job that graduates consider.

“People are attracted to roles where they can make a real difference and Unlocked Graduates gives them a chance to work at the frontline while gaining incredible leadership skills.”

#Training moves to Leeds

This year, the Unlocked Graduates scheme is being delivered for the first time in partnership with Leeds Trinity University. Those who complete the programme will be awarded with an MSc in Applied Custodial Leadership. The Masters was developed by and will be led, by Dr Danielle McDermott and former prison Governor Claire Vilarrubi, both academics at Leeds Trinity University, who between them have over 30 years’ experience working in prisons.

Professor Margaret A House OBE, Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University 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.”

Applications are open to join our 2021 cohort. Find out about the recruitment process and start your application today.