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Prison officer: Job description

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A prison officer has responsibility for the security, supervision, training and rehabilitation of people committed to prison by the courts. This includes motivating prisoners to do what is best for themselves and others around them within a safe and healthy environment.

In addition to their custodial duties, prison officers must be able to establish and maintain positive working relationships with prisoners, balancing authority with a large amount of understanding and compassion, in order to effect rehabilitation.

The nature of the role demands the ability to think on your feet, make quick decisions and deal effectively with unexpected situations.

Typical work activities

Some aspects of the work vary according to the type of prison and level of security, e.g. category A prisoners require closer supervision than category C. However, typical work activities include:

  • performing security checks and search procedures;
  • supervising prisoners, keeping an account of those in your charge and maintaining proper order;
  • supervising visits and carrying out patrol duties;
  • escorting prisoners;
  • assisting in prisoner reviews;
  • advising and counselling prisoners and making sure they have access to professional help if needed;
  • employing authorised physical control and restraint procedures where appropriate;
  • taking care of prisoners' property;
  • being aware of prisoners' rights and dignity and their personal responsibility;
  • providing appropriate care and support for vulnerable prisoners and those at risk of self-harm;
  • promoting anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies;
  • taking an active part in rehabilitation programmes, including workshops;
  • assessing and advising prisoners;
  • liaising with other specialist staff, including health and social work professionals;
  • writing prisoner reports.

Higher grade prison officers have extra responsibilities, such as supervising other officers or looking after an area or wing of the prison.


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Written by AGCAS editors
October 2013

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