HM PRISON SERVICE
Inclusion rules at the Prison Service.
Confounding media stereotypes and public preconceptions, today’s Prison Service offers a range of careers within an increasingly diverse and vibrant setting.
Working in a prison is a very different proposition these days. simply locking people up is no longer enough. Treating offenders humanely in a secure and ordered environment, and giving them realistic alternatives to crime are the principal aims of the Prison Service.
Achieving this takes the skills of many different kinds of people. Prison officers are the most visible members of the team, walking the landings talking to offenders and listening to what they have to say. But they are just one part of a complex whole, comprised of individuals with jobs as varied as chaplain and chef, psychologist and finance assistant.
Take just one of these roles away, and the operation would suffer as a result. That’s why every member of staff in a prison depends on the work of the next person, creating the sort of team spirit that would make most organisations envious. And this respect for colleagues doesn’t stop at their professional capabilities, either; it extends to the choices they’ve made in life, too.
John Nicholson, Head of Staff Diversity at the Service, discrimination is more than a moral question; it is also a matter of hard-nosed business sense. “When someone experiences discrimination, in whatever form, it means their ability to do their job is reduced, because, understandably, they’re not going to be fully focused. And this is a place where we need to get the best out of our people. 100% of the time.”
Nicholson makes no bones that there’s one way in which he discriminates. “Only on talent. That’s it. If we think you’re good enough for the Service, then you’re in. Nothing else enters the equation.”
He goes on to say : “Essentially, a prison is a microcosm of society, with offenders coming to us from every conceivable walk of life. It’s vital that our staff do too. That’s why my recruitment mantra is that, in today’s Service, we can offer diverse jobs for diverse people.” He laughs before adding: “Honestly, I’m constantly saying that to anyone who’ll listen, but I need to repeat it because people don’t always believe it’s true. Not initially at least.”
I wonder why this should be so. Then it becomes obvious. By its very nature, prison is a closed shop. All we civilians have to guide us about life inside are re-runs of Porridge or Bad Girls or the latest newspaper article on Guantanamo Bay. Neither of which is likely to convince you that prison is the place to find the rewarding career you’re looking for.
The worthwhile nature of the work ranks very highly, too. Everyone at the Service – not only prison officers – knows that what they do has a positive impact on offenders and society in general. This brings immense satisfaction, not least when you know you’ve had a positive affect on a released prisoner, and perhaps reduced their risk of coming back.
There are some great initiatives to teach usable skills to prisoners. Basics like reading and writing, in many cases. But there are things like the hairdressing course at HMP Risley, and a forklift driving course at HMP Birmingham. IT courses are also very popular. Out of the classroom, prison officers often support offenders with issues they feel they can’t talk to about anyone else – not even their families. “It could be something simple like arranging a phone call to their solicitor, that makes them feel positive things are happening.
John Nicholson has been in his post as Head of Staff Diversity for over 18 months, but has visited several facilities to get a feel for the work of the Service ‘on the ground’. “The first time I got to the gates, I thought, ‘What I have I let myself in for’, but within ten minutes I was struck by the amount of good work going on, and how obviously dedicated people were.”
Many staff with a disability already carry out a variety of roles in the Service. Reasonable adjustments are and will be made to ensure we employ and retain the right people in the right job.
As an equal opportunities employer HM Prison Service welcomes applications from people with a disability. We are actively working towards becoming an employer of choice.
For further information visit our website today