Prison officers, not academics

Posted on September 2, 2009

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Howard_LeagueThe conclusions from the Howard League’s research into prison officer skills and development are not unexpected – in that they highlight a well-defined issue in how to increase the volume of quality prison officers in the system.  But, as is all too familiar today, having identified a valid issue robustly, the recommendation is given without applying anything like the same rigour.

Where is the evidence to suggest that university degrees would help people be better prison officers?  As the Prison Officers Association rightly points out, it is the soft skills that are invaluable in offering the kind of care inmates need and in helping to create an environment that is not simply geared towards the incubation of re-offence.

Moreover, the university solution suggests that the eight week training course is replaced by one that is closer to 90 – 120 weeks of academic study in a campus environment rather than any notion of on the job training or practical development. 

This falls into the common trap of misrepresenting education as nothing more than a certificate, with no talk at all about vocational work placements, prisoner interaction or victim support counselling, all of which would give potential prison officers far more useful development and appropriate skills.

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