An Interview With: A prison officer.

Thursday, 26 October 2017


Keys jingle, doors slam shut, doors lock, footsteps can be heard from a distance, on each landing 60 doors look back at you, and behind each door are men who are ready for what today's regime will present to them. After 6 weeks of initial training I am finally here, my fresh uniform hugs my skin. I'm stood ready, nervous yet eager. I remind myself that this, this right here is the beginning of all I have ever wanted to do. I prepare myself for the stories they will share with me about how they got here, for the men who won't talk to me, for those who fear that my uniform is my way of telling them that I am better than them because I am on the other side.

I think of how many times I will have to remind the masses that we all make mistakes, and that despite the fact that they are serving time for theirs it is not the end rather it is their learning curves. The SO (Senior Officer) screams from the landing "unlock 2's and 4's" and at this point, the anxiety kicks in, I don't know if I'll be able to shoot the bolt or if I will be one of the officers with the horror story of being dragged in. Ten doors later I am smiling, each greeting from the men reassures me that unlocking the door is the easy part, and the conversation that will come after that will be harder to digest.
My first conversation is with a young man who openly admits that he is in for attempted murder, the voice in my head reminds me that we are not here to pass judgement. He starts the conversation questioning why I would want to work in the prison, he tells me I am young and can be doing something better with my time. I begin to explain things to him, I grew up in a neighbourhood where gun and knife crime was highly prevalent. I witnessed someone getting killed at 11 years old and since then cannot count how many people I have seen get stabbed, shot or end up in prison. I tell him of the countless number of friends I have seen go in and out of the system, and remind him that I think everyone can change and that I am here to help the men in whatever way I can. He smiles, then challenges me "you'll become like all the officers who stop caring about us, everyone starts off wanting to help, but the job is hard and they get tired and forgot why they started the job in the first place".

He hits a nerve this time and there is a lump in my throat, I swallow and then I remind myself to be a swan. The swan that gracefully moves on a lake is a picture of elegance in motion but what is hidden from the eye is the activity going on beneath the water’s surface. We don’t see the hard work conducted by the swan’s webbed feet which propels the graceful motion we see and admire. I digressed, I smile at him as I say "if I ever find myself losing who I am here, or no longer doing what I came here to do, then that will be my cue to leave" he smiles shakes my hand and says "you're the first officer I have heard say that, I like you, you're going to be an amazing officer, don't let this place change you".
A month later I still remember his words, it stands as the constant reminder that I came here hoping I can help people. As a teen, I remember wondering why the boys around my area were constantly re offending. At the time, I blamed the prison system for failing these young men, I swore I'd grow up and go in there and fix everything. Being on the other side I have only been given a reality check. I see prison officers, limited in numbers on each wing, who work hard every day to ensure the men get what they are entitled to, and where there is room for more they make it happen. I see young men who put their time and effort into working on the servery, in the application office and being painters or cleaners on the landing, to make everyone's life that little bit easier. Of course, I see anger, frustration, tears and even I have shed a few. Being in a prison environment is hard, it is challenging and sometimes having to work as a team to restrain someone is difficult. As is seeing someone with clear mental health issues being held in the confinement of the prison walls.

As a founder of a Mental Health organisation (SAIE – Survive, Achieve, Inspire and Elevate) myself, I must say it brings me joy to see that the prison has a Mental Health Unit where nurses work actively to help inmates with mental health issues. I guess as much as the job is challenging, it is very rewarding and extremely humbling, and I wouldn't change what I do for a living because I simply love it.
I’d encourage any recent grad looking for a challenge to consider applying for the Unlocked Graduates scheme. It is honestly the best thing I have done and it is time well spent. Unlocked has helped give my life more meaning and allowed me to feel like I have a real purpose. Being a prison officer is an incredibly rewarding role and we get the chance to study for a Master’s alongside our two years on the front line. A free master’s degree yay! I know I’ll be able to use this time to make a real difference.

Written by Saida, graduate from the University of Birmingham and Unlocked Graduate in the 2017 cohort.
*Guest post

22 comments

  1. This seems super interesting and it's a career choice that you don't hear much about!! Lovely guest post! X

    ReplyDelete
  2. Your wiritng was so good at the start that I thouht jt was going to be a big poem ����
    Super interesting though, there is a lot of taboo around working in prisons but it deffo sounds extremely rewarding! Xo

    ReplyDelete
  3. I found this really interesting, it is lovely getting an inside view on prison life and someone there who is not there to judge but to help improve lives x

    ReplyDelete
  4. wow how fascinating. It must be such an interesting job as I bet no two days are the same, whether that is good or bad! x

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow. What a tough job this must be both physically and mentally. My best friend’s partner is a prison officer in Manchester and I’ve got such respect for people who are capable
    Of the job. I’m not sure I would be!

    ReplyDelete
  6. What a fascinating post, it is good that the prisons system is taking mental health more seriously.

    ReplyDelete
  7. What happened to the interview? Can you let us know when it goes back online? How did you manage to snag such a interesting subject? I'll be back to read it

    ReplyDelete
  8. What a fascinating post, I'd never thought about how rewarding it could be being a prison officer x

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have a friend who was a prison officer and I always pump her with questions about her old job. Seems such a varied and fascinating job. What a great opportunity to be able to study as well.

    ReplyDelete
  10. The Unlocked Graduate programme seems like an unforgettable experience! I have enjoyed learning more about it!

    ReplyDelete
  11. This most certainly sounds like a career that would be fairly intense and you would really need a lot of stamina. Great writing and post.

    ReplyDelete
  12. A very interesting and intense read. Not my career of choice for sure x

    ReplyDelete
  13. A really fascinating post, it certainly must be a career full of challenges

    ReplyDelete
  14. What a beautifully written post! I really hope that you can make the most of your time in the prison and make a big difference to some people's lives.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I've thoroughly enjoyed your post. I have worked in a prison on work experience and found the whole environment haunting xxx

    ReplyDelete
  16. Interesting post as well as your job, hopefully you can help them start changing their lives. The young man you first spoke with sounds like he gave up in believing that there is somebody out there who is willing and trying to help through thick and thin.

    ReplyDelete
  17. wow this is so interesting! I'm glad the prison systems are taking mental health issues seriously xx

    ReplyDelete
  18. Not a job I could do. The reasons why people offend are so varied, aren't they and it's difficult not to be judgmental. I think as you get older you get more judgemental because you become more preoccupied with protecting you and yours. You also observe how rarely people change. Great post - really made me think.

    ReplyDelete
  19. great news about prison system and mental health, I guess in most cases inmates are simply left to deal with their own problems alone

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love reading stories like this. My friend used to write to a guy who was on death row, and the stories he used to tell her were enthralling!

    Louise x

    ReplyDelete
  21. my uncle has worked in a large well known prison which has and still holds some of the worse convicts but he loves his job he said its been testing at times but he loves seeing how some come out and neveer return and are made better people , some find a sort of peace while in there while others return and never change , he loves how different people from all walks of life no age , no religion, no colour or iq makes a convict, everyone is able to be put behind bars , they dont all act or look the same but all have one thing in common and that is they all need help . He loves offering them the help they need

    ReplyDelete
  22. I am fascinated by prison dramas and often wonder how realistic they are. It is an interesting career choice thats for sure

    ReplyDelete

© Dungarees And Donuts. Design by FCD.