Prison Officers Duties and Pay

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The role of being a prison officer has been around for 1000’s of years, and the majority of public opinion has historically been negative,  ranging from the horrific cruelty of Ancient Rome to the dishonest and murdering governor in the Shawshank Redemption. Modern reality paints a very different picture.

The role of prison over the past years has changed from being one of punishment and revenge to that of rehabilitation. Prison is still a very significant punishment, being deprived of your liberty and all the joy and happiness freedom allows is a terrible burden however being sent to prison is the punishment, actually being in prison should not make that worse.

As the role of prison has changed, so has the nature and style of the prison officer. Change takes time, and there are still some dinosaurs within the prison service (think Mr McKay from Porridge) but the new breed of officer has a much wider skill than of old.

Prison officers are recruited form all walks of life, although those with a military background are very well represented. The entry requirements for an Operational Support Grade (OSG) are modest, over 18, fit and healthy etc etc.  but they are still subjected to s stringent appointment procedure. The OSG gets 3 weeks intensive training at a residential college, and then “on the job” training thereafter. There are many additional courses an OSG will complete during their career depending on which part of the prison system they work in.

The duties of a OSG are defined by the MoJ as including:
i.      Checking in visitors
ii.      Supervision of visitors
iii.      Patrolling perimeter and grounds
iv.      Supervising small selected prisoner work parties
v.      Escorting contractors & vehicles
vi.      Searching Buildings
vii.      Searching prisoners property
viii.      Stores duties
ix.      Routine administrative work
x.      Night patrol duties
xi.      Drivers and Navigators
xii.      Switchboard duties
xiii.      Canteen and kit exchange duties
xiv.      Emergency Control Room (ECR) and Communications Room
xv.      C & R Personal Safety
xvi.      Rub down searching of prisoners

The educational requirements to join as a Prison Officer are higher than that of a OSG, and many of the new breed of prison officers are graduates. The Prison Officer has an 8 weeks training course before commencing duties, and are closely monitored during the early months/years of their career. Like the OSGs, there are many courses which they will take during their career depending upon where they work.

The duties of a Prison officer are wider than those of a OSG and the MoJ defines that as:

i.      To carry out security duties as required, contributing effectively to the safe and secure custody of Prisoners.
ii.    Ensure that all incidents are reported and dealt with  effectively, including bullying, assaults, substance misuse and self harm.
iii.    Prepare reports as required in a timely manner.
iv.    Follow set procedures for dealing with Prisoner applications.
v.  Encourage Prisoners to deal with personal challenges through offending behaviour programmes.
vi. Complete searching in adherence to local and national policy Encourage Prisoners to follow regime activities.
vii. Comply with audit requirements.
viii. Upholding respect for Prisoners, their property, rights and dignity.
ix.  Apply authorised control and restraint procedures where appropriate.
x.      Ensure Control and Restraint training (C & R) is completed each year as required.
xi.     Complete observation book entries.
xii.     Monitor vulnerable Prisoners appropriately.
xiii.   Act as Personal Officer to a group of Prisoners.
xiv.   Ensure standards of hygiene and cleanliness are maintained.
xv.    Ensure Suicide and Self Harm processes are complied with.
xvi.  Ensure information system for Prisoners is effective.
xvii. Contribute to own development through the Staff Performance & Development  Record.
xviii. Ensure all work is carried out to a high professional standard.

In addition to these general roles there are many other jobs within the prison service, some of which are undertaken by prison officers some by “civilian staff”

Promotion within the prison service is by “promotion boards” ; i.e. only the good ones get promoted! The prison service does, like many other organisations, recruit graduates on a “fast track” promoting them to higher ranked jobs within the service but these people are still relatively scarce.

Prison officers, and OSGs, are expected to work to a 39 weekly hour shift pattern, which may include early starts, late finishes, night shifts, weekend and Bank Holiday working.  Even the managers towards the top of the tree work the occasional weekend and antisocial hours. The rates of pay with the HMPS prison start at  £17,187 for an entry level officer, (which includes allowance for working weekends etc) rising to around £82,000 for the #1 governor of a major prison which may house over a 1000 prisoners and have 700+ employees. The rates of pay within the private sector prisons are lower than in the public sector.

How Prisons Work