On-the-job support Back to top
During the two-year programme, you will receive mentoring and supervision from a highly experienced prison officer. They are seconded to Unlocked for the duration of the programme as a Mentoring Prison Officer.
Joined prison service in 1997
Debbie explains the MPO role and what she hopes to see her officers achieve in the coming years.
Joined prison service in 2000
Stu explains how the MPO role works and what it means for prison officers on the Unlocked Programme.
Joined the prison service in 2015
Emma explains that she cannot wait for her officers to experience really helping someone on the job and that they will find the long shifts one of the biggest challenges!
Joined prison service in 1990
I started as a prison officer in 2004, prior to that I was at the Operational Support Grade level (OSG) from 1990. Most of my career was done at HMP Pentonville, I moved from Pentonville to Holloway, and then from Holloway I went on to The Mount.
I was attracted to the role of Mentoring Prison Officer as I totally agreed with the idea. I’ve been a mentor before, but I’ve only ever mentored someone for a maximum of seven days. They often came and saw me afterwards with different questions and it just wasn’t long enough. Unlocked Graduates is a programme that includes Mentoring Prison Officer as a role for two years, and I just thought that’s a perfect amount of time, so decided to apply for it.
My main responsibilities are to conduct one-to-one reviews and group supervisions. We also provide additional training for the prison officers, which they do alongside their day-to-day work. Apart from that, it’s general support and signposting. I get a lot of questions about ‘dynamic security,’ which is the method by which we build relationships with the prisoners in order to assess and reduce risks. They often ask if they are doing it right or doing it wrong – since I do a lot of observing, I can provide direct feedback to individuals during the one-to-one reviews.
The real benefit of the MPO system is the ongoing support that we provide to all the Unlocked Graduates, from coaching sessions to mentoring conversations. And you really see the difference we make – the most surprising thing about the job is how quickly the participants have made an impact, within six months they were already making changes. Having that mentor system has really pushed them on, and the support will make them future leaders.
Joined prison service 2008
On a day-to-day basis a Mentoring Prison Officer will check in with participants that are on our programme. Everyone gets a regular 45 minute check-in with their MPO to discuss their progress or anything that’s worrying them. We use our experiences to mentor and coach them, especially in terms of the day-to-day issues they might face in prison. It could be how do you deal with certain difficulties like challenging prisoners or changing culture and guiding them through the situation.
As an MPO we also deliver training to participants on a rolling basis. So we might get feedback directly from participants to say they don’t feel like they know enough about a certain subject. And we go away and will learn about it, a session will be designed for us, and we will deliver that to them based on their needs. And then also sometimes we identify subjects as an organisation that they would definitely benefit from that actually other prison officers don’t get, and we’ll deliver that to them as well and build it into their curriculum. So for example if a new policy comes out, we’ll say to them what can you do as a Band 3 prison officer to contribute to the changes and be a leader in the prison service.
I think working in a prison is one hundred percent a unique environment, even though everyone will say that about their own job! But you go inside the walls of a prison and it’s a whole community – it’s one of those things that until you’ve been inside you don’t really know what that entails. You build up a really good working relationship with the people that you’re working with day-to-day, both in terms of your colleagues and actually the prisoners as well. And no one really understands that until you’ve had to try and do that yourself. So it’s really useful having somebody to mentor you, someone who has already dealt with difficult situations and can guide you through that.