Call For Degree Educated Prison Officers

A charity for Penal Reform has today released a report recommending that prison officers are educated to degree level in order to better manage prisons and reduce reoffending rates.

At present, prison officers undergo eight weeks training before taking responsibility for safety and security within a prison.

Prison officers have to deal with a wide range of range of complicated issues each requiring different skills and knowledge; for example, 80% of prisoners have mental health problems and 55% of those received into custody are problematic drug users.

The report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, Turnkeys or professionals? A vision for the 21st century prison officer, also found that demands on prison officers are growing as the prison population increases. Between 2000 and 2006 the prison population increased by 24% while the number of prison officers only increased by 9%.

The Howard League believes more needs to be done to prepare prison officers and create safer, dynamic prisons.

The prison officer's job should be compared to that of a social worker, nurse or a teacher, which over the years have all become professions. By withholding crucial training and education, the charity believes that the prison service is failing its staff and putting them at risk.

This report comes at a crucial time as the Ministry of Justice currently seeks to downgrade the role of the prison officer as part of its workforce modernisation plans. The prison service is already chronically under-resourced, under-staffed and over-stretched and making further cuts while the prison population continues to increase will only worsen reoffending rates, creating more victims of crime.

The charity proposes that prison officers are educated to a higher level and paid


Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said: "Day in, day out, prison officers are faced with difficult and perilous situations with only eight weeks' training to draw on.

"Prisons are violent and dangerous places, full of very vulnerable and damaged individuals. Prison officers need comprehensive and thorough training to deal with prisoners' mental health."

However Colin Moses, Chairman of the Prison Officers Association, insists personal qualities are more important than paper qualifications.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme he said: "We have a professional workforce now, there are some shortfalls in training, but what we do not need is to pursue this line of a degree.

"Currently we have massive practical skills which are often overlooked by the Howard League. What we want to see is more ongoing training, more specialised training, and we want that very quickly.

"We have a very dedicated workforce. That's what we have and that's what we need."


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