HM Prison Service Intensive Development Scheme
"I could talk all day about my job," laughs recently appointed senior prison officer, Rebecca Hayward. "When you say you’re a prison officer, everyone wants to know what your job is like."
Rebecca, 26, who graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2002 with a 2:1 in law, has been making a difference to people’s lives ever since she got involved in voluntary work with the long–term unemployed while studying for her degree.
"A lot of the people I was working with had just come out of prison and were looking for accommodation and to get into employment. When I graduated I found a paid job doing the same kind of thing, so for the next three and a half years I worked in prisons as a civilian, –doing resettlement work, accommodation work, getting employment for the prisoners – whatever their problems were, we would be there to try to resolve it".
Rebecca then decided that she wanted to have more of an impact and made her mind up to apply for a place on the Prison Service’s Intensive Development Scheme, where she would be trained to work as a prison officer and become an accredited operational manager in the Prison Service. She admits, "it’s not the most usual choice," but she feels privileged to be in her position.
"During my intake there were roughly 600 applicants to start with and they only took on 32". However, to begin with, Rebecca wasn’t sure how people would take to a female graduate in the role of a prison officer when she first started a year ago.
"I was nervous about people’s reaction. At the prison I went to, the staff were experienced, predominantly male and a bit older than me. But, if you get stuck in and do your job well, then they show you as much respect and support as anyone else. Once they got to know me it was fantastic".
Rebecca believes that it takes a strong personality to be a prison officer. "One of the most important things you need in the prison service is a sense of humour. And good communication skills – they’re the key ones," she says. "The job can sometimes take over your life, it can be stressful. If something’s happened that day it can be a bit hard to switch off from it."
The role of a prison officer requires an extraordinary amount of commitment: "It’s long shifts and there’s no heading off early or coming in a bit late – it’s a fixed shift pattern and we’re very driven by the core day in the prison, we have to fit around that," she says."The most challenging part is treating everyone as an indi–vidual and that goes for the staff you work with as well as the prisoners."
Rebecca’s advice to those graduates considering a career in the Prison Service is to experience it first–hand. "I would advise anyone thinking of working in the Prison Service to visit a prison."
And in Rebecca’s opinion, how does working in the public sector compare with the private sector? "If you’ve got friends from university who are doing jobs for private companies, they may earn a lot more money than you but I think that’s where the job satisfaction you receive will balance it out," she says."The best thing about it is the satisfaction that you get from solving problems and seeing the prisoners improve their behaviour. That’s the main thing – realising that you make a difference to people’s lives. The best choice I ever made was to put on a uniform and make a real difference in this way."
THE IDS: BACKGROUND
This is a three–year scheme for any graduate interested in a career in the Prison Service, at the end of which you will leave as an accredited operational manager in the prison service at junior–governor grade level. In your first year you complete full training as a prison officer and spend 12 months carrying out their full range of duties. You will then move on to become a senior officer at a different prison and in the final year you work as a trainee operational manager.
The two main benefits of the scheme are that it’s fast–track (you are able to move through the ranks a lot quicker than you would if you just came into the service) and that the graduates will receive an extensive amount of support from the staff around them, including extra training and advice.
For more information