Case study

Nathan — Unlocked prison officer


Life as a prison officer isn't just about unlocking doors - Nathan explains what Unlocked Graduates has to offer and how he's developed on the scheme

What made you consider becoming a prison officer?

I took a year out after uni and wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so did some work experience in policy and some within criminal justice. I found that I wanted to do something where I could actually be on the frontline, getting to know people rather than making decisions from afar.

It's not a typical job, but I get to do what I love doing - talking to people all day every day - which is my main motivation. It's a chance to make a change, helping people who have been failed.

What's a typical day like?

There isn't really a typical day. I work on quite a varied schedule, so might start at 12pm one day and at 7am another. I can also be in different parts of the prison on different days which keeps things more interesting - there's never a week where you're doing exactly the same thing.

The job boils down to keeping people safe. You're always having conversations with people whatever you're doing, that's the constant wherever you are - you're always talking and getting to know the people you're working with.

What's the biggest challenge?

For me, the biggest challenge has been finding the balance between caring and discipline. Sometimes you build up a good relationship with someone, but everyone makes mistakes and things happen - so you have to be able to put your relationship aside and be the corrective force you need to be to discipline them. This can be difficult and you do feel bad sometimes about it as you don't want that relationship to be destroyed for the future.

Being a prison officer isn't a typical job. What opportunities does it offer?

Unlocked Graduates offers so many opportunities. In terms of personal development and training, you grow so much as a person. You have a lot of your weaknesses shown up and built upon.

It's a great salary. Also, within the prison service, there are loads of skills and opportunities to train in different areas. Whether you're interested in dogs, security or resettling, there are so many things that you can do that you may not realise. Being a prison officer isn't just unlocking doors!

What advice would you give to someone thinking of applying to Unlocked?

The first thing that I would say is to just go for it! If you're someone who enjoys a challenge and is passionate about helping others, there's no better role available to graduates. Working in a prison is certainly out of the ordinary and becoming an officer, coupled with Unlocked's expert support and development opportunities, helps you learn so much about yourself. With Unlocked you have the unique opportunity to grow personally and professionally, whilst changing people's lives on a daily basis.

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