Headlines: September 2nd, 2009

Prison officers should be educated to degree level so that their role moves to becoming a profession, according to a report published today. The Howard League for Penal Reform says officers should not be involved in punishment but in helping to make time spent in jail constructive for prisoners and for society.

Today’s report, ‘Turnkeys or professionals a vision for the 21st century prison officer’, says: “In order to achieve this, prison officers need to be educated rather than simply trained,” and it adds: “The prison officer should be seen in the same terms as a social worker, nurse or a teacher. We suggest that it should be a graduate profession.”

The report says that with the government aiming to have half the population educated to degree level, prison staff should be at the forefront of benefiting from this. The report points to the need for a radical rethinking of prison service staffing and suggests a “root and branch review, addressing the backgrounds that prison officers are drawn from, the training they receive, the job they do and the professional development they go through.”

The report is concerned that plans for workforce reform are predicated on reducing the wages of prison officers which would lead to further lowering of the educational qualifications they need and a reduction in the training they are given. The authors say: “It is the concern of the Howard League for Penal Reform that this is likely to result in increased reoffending rates and risk to the public.”