These 2 blogs have been written by a senior member of staff at HMP The Mount and give a good idea of what it’s like working inside a prison
What’s it like working in a prison?
I am often asked “What is it like working in a prison?” I’m never quite sure how to answer, as every day is different and as with most jobs, there are good and bad days. There are many challenges but rewards too. I am non -operational, but even so, the working environment is completely different from anything on the ‘outside.’ There is no movement around the prison that doesn’t involve keys or electronic gates.
I started at The Mount on a casual contract for 2 weeks covering annual leave for an administrative assistant. 16 years later, I’m still here! I have worked in most departments within the prison covering many roles and have slowly made my way up the promotional ladder.
I meet regularly with prisoners which can be anything from attending their meetings, providing information, supporting them through a crisis or a general chat in the grounds. I have worked with many prisoners on rehabilitative courses who have really changed their attitudes and realised that time spent in prison can be used to make positive changes that will prevent a return to custody. This is the most rewarding part of the job, knowing that your actions have helped to turn a prisoners’ life around.
The Mount is a training prison and as such, we provide education, training and employment. Education ranges from basic skills right up to a Masters degree. Employment in our workshops includes; printing, double glazing, woodwork, waste management and horticulture. Skills can be learned in plastering, bricklaying or hairdressing.
I have seen many changes during my time here. The biggest change being in technology. We now have video links for Parole Board hearings, GPS electronic tags for prisoners released on Home Detention Curfew and officers wearing body worn cameras. Our IT systems provide us with access to a greater source of information which helps us to make more informed decisions and to make these decisions much quicker. I wonder what technological advances will be made over the next few years.
What I like about working in a prison is being part of a team
I never thought that I would work in a prison. I had never even really wondered what prison life would be like. I happened to mention to a friend that I needed to find another job as I was dissolving the business that I had been running for the previous 13 years. My friend said that there was a casual job going at the prison where she worked – 2 weeks part time cover for someone on annual leave. “Great” I said, I could do that. Well, 16 years on and I’m still here!
The working environment within a prison is unique. You are in an environment that is closed off to most of society. It has its own special community, with a rigid set of rules. There is a great team ethos amongst the staff and we all work together really well. The team spirit is created because we all share the same aim, to provide a safe, decent and rehabilitative place for offenders to live and for us to work. We also all appreciate and value the contribution that everyone makes to the smooth running of the prison, whether that’s a volunteer, an administrative assistant or a Senior Officer running a wing.
I have worked in many areas within the prison over the years and my favourite role was working with our foreign nationals. This was a very challenging role but there were rewards too. On a typical day, I would be delivering bad news to a prisoner, serving a deportation order and flight details to a country that they do not wish to return to. As you can imagine, this evoked a range of responses and none of them would be positive. I then had to make sure that the prisoner had the support and information needed to facilitate the process. Often I made calls to family, spoke with Commissioners in Embassies and liaised with Immigration services. On the same day I could also be serving a deportation order on a prisoner who was anxious to return home and the news was greeted enthusiastically. Every day was very much an emotional roller coaster.
Working with such a great team still means there will be many challenges to overcome in the future. They will meet these challenges and with the continued support from local organisations, such as HACRO, HMP The Mount will continue the good work of supporting offenders to make those positive life changes and reduce re-offending. Prisoners will one day return to the communities that you may live in and it is in all our interests to do what we can to give that second chance, to enable an ex offender to make a positive contribution to society.
If you’d like to know more about joining our volunteering team at HMP The Mount, please contact HACRO