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Where every day is different and every prison officer is too.

Our prison officers come from all walks of life. Join us and you’ll be part of a diverse team working to reduce reoffending and transform lives.

As a key worker, you’ll work with a range of people and perform a variety of tasks – from keeping the prison safe and secure, to helping vulnerable people through a difficult time in their lives.

It’s hard work but it matters.

Daily life

There is no such thing as a typical day. Life can depend on the prison, its level of security and the prisoners.


Most prisons work with a changing shift pattern of 39 hours a week. This can include some nights, weekends and public holidays (these days are added to your holiday allowance).

Shifts usually follow regular hours although the start and finish time may vary depending on your prison. An example shift pattern is shown below.

Start Finish
Early 7.00am 12.30pm
Late 12.00pm 8.00pm
Main 8.00am 5.00pm
All day 8.00am 8.00pm
Nights 8.45pm 7.30am

"My day"
Idaya, HMP Swaleside

Idaya swapped a job in retail to become a prison officer in a category B male prison.


I start the day with toast, egg and beans. I iron my uniform – a shirt and trousers – and polish my boots the night before to save time. We can wear make-up but I keep it light.


I check into the prison, scan my fingerprint and collect my keys and radio. I start with a briefing from the governor and get my assignments for the day.

90% of this job is talking and providing a positive outlook

My duties include anything from checking cells for prohibited items such as phones, or checking prisoner numbers on the wing.


It’s a lock-up period for the prisoners. I grab nachos from the canteen for lunch.

In the afternoon, we re-open the cells for exercise. I talk with prisoners about how to solve problems or what they can do if they have a dispute.

I don’t get scared, although you need to use authority to get your point across sometimes

I pass over to a support officer, hand in my belt, keys and radio and sign out. The best part of my day is when someone tells me I’ve changed their life. The worst part is dealing with complaints.


I get home and call my family. Then it’s dinner and TV. I’ll be in bed by 10.30pm.

(Taken from an original article published by

Key worker

As a prison officer, you will be a key worker with responsibility for around 6 offenders.

You will meet with the individuals on a regular basis to support their rehabilitation. This might involve encouraging participation in education, substance recovery programmes and maintaining links with family members.

Inside prison

The offenders you work with will depend on the prison.

Types of prisons

Prisons are split according to male, female and young offenders. Some prisons serve local courts and hold prisoners before, during and immediately after a trial. Others have long-term prisoners serving out the majority of their sentence.

  • Category A – High security prison – houses offenders that would pose the most threat to the public, the police or national security should they escape.
  • Category B – Core local prison – houses offenders that are taken directly from courts in the area, either sentenced or on remand.
  • Category C – Training prison – provides offenders with opportunities for developing skills so they can find work on release.
  • Category D – Open prison – allows offenders to spend most of the day away from the prison carrying out work whilst on licence.
  • Young offender institution (YOI) – prisons that house offenders aged between 18 and 21.

Find out more about prison categories

Youth custody

Young people under 18 who have been remanded or sentenced to periods of detention by the courts are held in specialist youth custody locations.

As a youth justice worker you will learn specialist skills and techniques for working with young people.

Find out about youth justice workers