My Job: ‘I like breaking the jail officer stereotype’

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Covid has remodeled the working world. Easing restrictions, healthcare considerations and cash worries have all left folks questioning what they do and why they do it.

As a part of the ‘My Job’ collection we’re investigating how completely different folks discover goal of their every day work.

Mica has labored as a jail officer in HMP Portland, in Dorset, for the final 5 years. It’s a Category C jail, which suggests it’s safer than open jail, however prepares prisoners for all times exterior, with coaching for work.

It homes as much as 530 males aged 18 and over and Mica’s additionally spent a stint working as a supervising officer.

Mica Graphic

Why did you apply for the job?

I all the time wished to be in uniform as a child. A variety of my associates really labored within the jail service once I obtained older and I discovered their tales actually fascinating – it appeared like on daily basis was utterly completely different, whereas that was actually lacking from the job I used to be in on the time, in immigration.

The fear of the unknown did maintain me again a bit – in addition to the stigma round prisons. I assumed I needed to be large and muscly to do the job, however having joined it is utterly not like that.

How did the recruitment course of work?

What gave me the push ultimately, was wanting a bit extra stability.

The course of total included a web based utility kind, completely different state of affairs exams that determine the way you work together with folks and what your pure reactions to issues could be.

In particular person, you do issues like a primary health take a look at -a bleep take a look at – however you do not want {qualifications}.

The foremost precedence is having good communication expertise, eager to rehabilitate folks and having a real curiosity in them as effectively… we home prisoners who might be 21, or we have even obtained somebody who’s 80 years previous.

If you may discuss to folks you are half-way there. Because a whole lot of the time you would be on the wing, doing key-worker periods, or attempting to influence them to go to schooling or the health club… no two days are the identical, and actually it is about being open-minded.


Routes into jail work

  • Direct utility: You do not want {qualifications} to use on to be a jail officer – private qualities are extra vital. You’ll have to take a web based take a look at to examine your judgement and quantity expertise, in addition to go to an evaluation centre in case you cross these.
  • An superior apprenticeship as a custody and detention officer.


Does it really feel good to interrupt a stereotype?

It is such a great feeling to interrupt a stereotype!

There’s an enormous stigma round prisons… folks can generally be very shocked once I inform them my job as a result of they consider jail officers as large, bald, tattooed guys – and that is positively not me!

But I am unable to stress sufficient – it is all in regards to the communication expertise. I am unable to cease speaking generally, whether or not that is the fitting or fallacious factor!

What are the most important misconceptions in regards to the job?

You have a look at locks, doorways, fences – it would not appear to be a pleasant place. Don’t get me fallacious – you want these issues for security. But while you come into HMP Portland and see the workshops, healthcare, the workers and the rugby pitches… it is like a group.

You do not change into associates with the prisoners. There is clearly a boundary that does have to be there. But I do attempt to assist and exit of my approach, as a result of typically somebody’s by no means executed that for them earlier than.

Once I had a key-worker session with a prisoner that could not learn or write. In time, he managed to put in writing a letter to household. For him, it was huge. He smashed it and we each felt nice about it – these are little issues to folks on the skin they may not take into consideration, however they imply rather a lot.

What has been your hardest day on the job?

When you’re taking this job, there are all the time scary issues that would occur. I’d hate to say it by no means occurs, however these incidents are few and much between.

One of the toughest issues for me is definitely seeing a prisoner come again in.

You thought you might need put all of the little steps in to assist them a lead a great life, however once they come again they are often fairly dismissive as a result of they assume they will maintain coming again. The actually vital factor there’s to maintain chipping away at it… it may be actually powerful however I feel it is vital not to surrender.


Prison work in numbers

  • 58,1821 full-time workers in submit
  • 29.1% of jail officers are feminine
  • Less than three years: Average size of service
  • 11.2%: Leaving fee within the yr to 31 December 2021, up from 8.3% within the yr to 31 March
  • 7,983 joiners within the final yr


How lengthy do folks have a tendency to remain?

Our turnover fee is sort of excessive – moreso now. There are a whole lot of [other job] alternatives on the market in the intervening time.

At HMP Portland, for instance, we’d wrestle for recruitment due to the realm [we’re located] and the place we will decide from.

I do assume although that lots of people be a part of as a jail officer, after which go on to completely different roles [in the prison service] like a supervising officer, a canine handler, a workshop teacher… we lose rather a lot however they go into completely different departments as a result of there are a whole lot of alternatives and folks realise there are different routes they may wish to go down.


If I might enhance one thing, it could be having extra workers. That’s males, females – everybody from all completely different backgrounds. People convey their very own skills and having folks from a mixture of locations is helpful for the jail and prisoners.

How a lot did the job change throughout Covid?

In the pandemic, we had PPE put in place, hand-washing stands, and social distancing. [Social distancing] was very troublesome for employees even on the skin, by no means thoughts speaking that to a inhabitants of prisoners who did not know a lot about it.

We’re a confined house and needed to mirror all of the measures on the skin. If there was a lockdown, we had been in lockdown. The stigma round vaccinations was actually onerous too, and I do know a whole lot of institutions struggled with that.

I do genuinely really feel that the jail service did a great job with controlling the pandemic total.

Now I am unable to wait to have the jail operating correctly – having healthcare appointments versatile for all of the wings, focus teams, visits operating to a small capability.

When restrictions come to an finish too, we’ll hopefully have household days reopen, which supplies the chance for prisoners to have one-to-ones with their youngsters. There’s all these belongings you’d by no means assume you get in jail, like bouncy castles and face-painting. It’s completely buzzing. The prisoners actually take pleasure in it and the prospect to get to be that father determine, which they’ve not had for 2 years now [due to the pandemic] – and it is good for employees to get to know their background.

What would you say to somebody considering of making use of to the jail service?

Just go for it. You do not need to be the cleverest particular person ever. If you are coronary heart’s in the fitting place, you are half-way there.

You can find yourself being a mom, a sister – every kind of issues to prisoners. And, what’s actually vital to me as effectively, is that you could construct actually good relationships with the workers. In Portland, it is an ideal group to be concerned in… I’ve made associates for all times.

This interview has been condensed for readability.