At the end of July the second cohort of prospective Unlocked Graduates will be starting Summer Institute, the six week training programme that will prepare them to be frontline prison officers. We asked Ruby from the original 2017 cohort to share her reflections on Summer Institute, one year on:
You’re getting closer to the start of Summer Institute, so hopefully this will give you a better idea of what to expect. You are about to begin training for one of the most challenging, rewarding and unpredictable jobs, one that will develop your confidence and resilience like no other. Summer Institute is an incredible and exhausting learning curve, and the six weeks are crammed with training, lectures and role play scenarios.
You will be given your uniform on the first day, and you will move back into halls again. Truthfully, I never saw myself going into the prison service prior to joining Unlocked Graduates, so to be picking up the black and white uniform was a very surreal experience. I found myself with a group of 50 of the most supportive and passionate people, all equally as nervous as the next person.
The training is intense, and the days are long, and it is difficult to balance revision for practical training and the assignments for the masters, but you will be inspired by the people you meet, reminding you why you are on this programme. The support of your MPO is invaluable; they will be your lifeline for the next two years!
There were plenty of moments during Summer Institute where I doubted myself and questioned my ability to control a wing of 100 men who were sure to have absolutely no interest in listening to me, particularly when I could be half their age. The scenarios we ran through in training often left me panicking: I’m not tough enough, I’m not assertive enough, I’m not loud enough. Everyone goes through this! You will find your own approach that works for you, so don’t worry, don’t be afraid to ask questions and put yourself out of your comfort zone whenever you can.
There will be nothing quite as daunting as walking onto your wing on your first day as a prison officer. But once you have done this, and once you have spent two weeks there, you will see how much you have developed already. Enjoy the milestones along the way in Summer Institute, too. You will pass your first aid training, learn how to respond to serious incidents, develop your authoritative body language and tone of voice, hear from inspirational speakers about the impact of prison and the positive influence of a good prison officer, and there is a graduation ceremony at the end of the six weeks to celebrate everything you have achieved.
One year into the job, and I am still learning every day, but I can see how my resilience and confidence has developed. You will also have an amazing support network through your cohort. It is so rewarding to know that you have made a positive difference to just one person’s experience in prison, too, no matter how small.