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Prison officer: job description

Prison officer: job description

Prison officers supervise, rehabilitate and oversee the safety and security of offenders who have been sentenced to prison.
They balance authority and the need for rehabilitation.

What does a prison officer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

The job involves:

  • receiving new prisoners
  • issuing prison clothes
  • unlocking, supervising, 'befriending' and counselling prisoners
  • dealing with prisoners' requests and applications
  • patrolling buildings
  • being aware of prisoner's rights
  • writing reports
  • managing staff
  • controlling disorderly behaviour
  • rehabilitating and preparing prisoners for release

Shifts can include night and weekend duties. Promotional opportunities are good – staff members normally become senior officers within approximately four years.

Typical employers of prison officers

Prison officers are employed by HM Prison Service and private prisons contracted out to security firms. Similar jobs may be available at secure hospitals, within the armed forces, and with the police and intelligence services.

There is competition for vacancies, particularly for the graduate development scheme. Jobs are advertised in local and regional newspapers, careers services and job centres. The selection process includes an assessment centre and medical, fitness and security checks.

Qualifications and training required

To join the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) graduate programme you will need at least a 2.2 in any subject. Relevant experience and a degree are not required for standard entry. Any voluntary or paid experience can be beneficial.

The occupation requires a rational, patient and understanding individual, capable of maintaining security and control, while treating prisoners with humanity, sensitivity and respect. Consequently, training is a vital part of the job: all new recruits receive intensive training, including controlling and restraining techniques.

Key skills for prison officers

  • Non-discriminatory
  • Assertive
  • Mature
  • Problem solving and decision-making skills
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Teamworking skills
  • Listening skills
  • Negotiating skills

Candidates are also expected to have the geographical flexibility to relocate to anywhere within the UK.

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