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Could you work as a prison officer? This tool helps you find out

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Recruitment advice, Ways of working

An image from one of the self-selection tool videos of an actor ex-offender speaking with a prison officerBack in April 2018 we hit our target of recruiting 2,500 prison officers, 7 months ahead of schedule. But that doesn't mean we’ve stopped recruiting.

We need to continually recruit prison officers to balance the natural process of people changing roles, either through promotions or career changes, and ensure our prisons are fully staffed.

Being a prison officer can be a rewarding yet challenging career - so we want to make sure applicants understand as much as possible about the role before they apply. That's why we've developed a new tool that can help potential applicants decide if the prison officer role is right for them.

We know it's not always easy to get a sense of how you’d feel working in a prison environment before even starting a job application. So this tool intends to give a realistic insight into what working in a prison environment is like through a series of short videos. It then asks you to judge how you feel after each situation.

A screen shot from the self-selection tool video. It shows an image of a prison officer talking to a prisoner. The text underneath reads: Being a prison officer is a pressured role and you will experience lots of demands on your time and attention, which required a calm and patient approach. How comfortable would you be with this aspect of the role. The multiple choice responses are: Not at all comfortable, There are elements I am uncomfortable with, I'm not sure how I feel, There are elements I am comfortable with, Very comfortable.
A screenshot of one of the tool's questions and video

The tool is not part of the assessment or recruitment process, but something people interested in becoming prison officers can use to help them decide whether or not to apply.

How does it work?

The tool consists of 8 short videos. After watching each video, you’ll be given a multiple choice question to answer.

A screen shot of the self-selection tool. The image shows a woman looking down. The question underneath reads: As a prison officer you will be expected to be a key worker for around six prisoners, which means supporting them through their sentence and encouraging them to achieve their goals. How comfortable would you be with this aspect of the role? The multiple choice answers are: Not at all comfortable, There are elements I am uncomfortable with, I'm not sure how I feel, There are elements I am comfortable with, Very comfortable.

At the end, you’ll receive a result that’ll tell you how closely the prison officer role is suited to you, or if you need to do some more research into the career or if you should explore other jobs within the justice system.

Authenticity is crucial

It was important for us to make the tool as authentic as possible. The people in the videos are real prison officers and ex-offender actors, employed by Synergy Theatre Project.

Ministry of Justice staff - including a copywriter, prison officers and an occupational psychologist - helped write the scripts for the videos.

Both groups of staff and ex-offenders advised on the script language and worked together during filming to create a realistic portrayal of prison life.

The good, the bad and the ugly

This also meant showing the challenging parts of being a prison officer, alongside the rewarding. So, some situations shown in the videos are:

  • what it’s like to have your first key worker conversation
  • how to calm down a situation, sometimes through the use of force when required
  • the need for resilience
  • what it’s like to not give up on someone

Our hope is that the tool will provide a fuller picture of what working in the prison service is like, so that the right people are applying already with an idea of what managing prisoners is like. This is to ensure our prison service continues to be run by people who are confident in their role and committed to this rewarding, yet challenging, career.

Try out the tool yourself and see if the prison officer role is right for you.

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  1. Comment by Elizabeth posted on

    Can I be a prison officer if I have debts

    • Replies to Elizabeth>

      Comment by Helena posted on

      Hi Elizabeth,

      During the pre-employment (vetting) checks, every case is reviewed on an individual basis by an experienced team. Please disclose all the information when answering your vetting questions.