What is it really like working for the prison service? We explore the different career opportunities available and what makes it is such an excellent career choice
Working in a prison is a truly rewarding career. As a prison service employee, you are the true heroes of the prison system. You provide an essential, valuable service to society. Your role is diverse; you are at once a protector, a support system, an authority figure, a team player, a teacher, and a supervisor. There will be some days when work leaves you frustrated, but there will also be days when you leave work feeling rewarded and proud.
The prison service comprises a number of different career paths that you can choose from, the most well-known being a prison officer. People tend to be less aware of the other opportunities within the prison sector. You could work as an educational instructor, teaching prisoners essential skills that could support them on release and prevent reoffending, or you could work as support worker (i.e. probation worker, residential worker), promoting offender rehabilitation or working with vulnerable inmates. The prison system caters to individual needs and ambitions. Depending on your skills, there are also a lot of careers within offender management. Across all levels, there are plenty of opportunities for career progression and advancement.
When working in a prison, your main asset is your character. You will need to be motivated, keep calm under pressure, have strong communication skills, be understanding, supportive, assertive, and work well as part of a team. Most importantly, you will need to ignore the label ‘offender’ and see the human being underneath. At the end of the day, the people that you are supervising are just fellow humans. Humans that have made mistakes, some admittedly worse than others, but they are just people who are entitled to the same basic rights as anyone else. It is your job to look past the mistakes and treat that individual like a person.
There are a number of career benefits to working for the prison service, that aren’t widely promoted in the media. It is an engaging career with a huge variety of activities that you could be doing on any given day. No two days will ever be the same, giving you an exciting and diverse career. You will be part of a closely-knit team that supports each other. If you enjoy working with people and mixing with different groups, then this is definitely the perfect sector for you. You will come across people from all walks of life, both amongst the inmates and within your own staff team. Prison service careers also provide you with multiple opportunities to learn more about yourself. To test your skills, see what you are capable of, and work within an environment that both challenges and rewards you on a daily basis.
Prison staff are also provided with a competitive annual salary, a choice of two excellent civil service pension schemes, and a wide range of other benefits such as childcare vouchers and season ticket advances. Holiday is generous, at around 25 days as well as bank holidays, rising to around 30 days after 5 to 10 years of service. Job flexibility is available if you have other commitments and aren’t able to work full time.
Perhaps most importantly, working in prisons gives you an opportunity to make a difference. This is your chance to help someone recognise their mistakes and learn how to move past them, transforming not just the individual, but society too. In this day and age, prison is about more than just locked doors. It is about reform, rehabilitation and change. This sector is a real opportunity to have an impact on the world and to make it a better place.