The previous government set out a prison reform white paper outlining how they planned to tackle the problems of increases in violence and self-harm in prisons and high rates of reoffending. This included an investment of £1.3 billion over the following five years, which made allowances for recruiting an additional 2,100 prison officers. This was, in part, a response to the reduction in staff suffered by the prison service: the number of prison officers fell from 25,000 to 18,000 between 2010 and 2017. The white paper made a commitment to:
“develop a long term plan to attract and retain the country’s highest calibre candidates to work in prisons”
The pledge to reform the recruitment process for prison officers is this government’s attempt to maintain momentum in this area.
So what has happened since the election? In response to criticisms that the Queen’s Speech did not mention prison reform, the then Justice Secretary David Lidington said in an open letter that prison reform “has to start with the number of prison officers available to support offenders”, suggesting the government’s awareness of this issue as a priority.
Yet specific details of how “entry requirements, training, management and career paths of prison officers” would be reformed were left unspecified. There has been no further information forthcoming on what the reforms might look like.
The government’s careers website currently states:
“You do not need qualifications to apply directly to be a prison officer.”
The only “Restrictions and Requirements” listed for the role are:
- pass enhanced background checks
- be over 18 years of age
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