Key insights from a Prison Officer at Unlocked

Created on 17 Sep 2018

A huge congratulations to Tolumofe for landing a graduate role with Unlocked. Here he shares his experience and even gives some tips to future applicants. 

Why did you choose this firm and this role?

Upon finishing my degree, I was unsure about how I wanted to start my professional career, but I knew I wanted to be directly involved in an organisation where I could make a significant impact to those who I work with. Being a prison officer had never crossed my mind but after doing research and coming across the Unlocked graduate scheme, I instantly knew that this was the job I wanted to do. This unique job opportunity is focused upon a very worthwhile and necessary cause of helping prisoners break the cycle of reoffending. Gaining insight into a very hidden yet so important part of society and having such a direct role in the rehabilitation of prisoners was an opportunity I could not afford to miss out on. Furthermore, completing a fully funded Master’s in Leadership and Custodial Environments as well as having the opportunity to influence prison reform through submitting a policy paper in the second year of the scheme made this scheme even more attractive. This meant I would have a direct role in injecting new ideas, insights and energy into prisoner rehabilitation and prison reform. I knew the challenge of this job would build me as an individual, because of the large amount of responsibility that would be given to me and the impact I could have. It gave the opportunity to lead change from the inside. I was sure that no other graduate scheme could give me anything close to the experience that Unlocked were offering.

What was the most challenging part of the application process?

The application process was quite challenging. However, the most challenging part of all in my opinion was when we were practically assessed on how we would de-escalate and manage an angry prisoner. An actor played the role of a very angry and shouting prisoner and I was assessed on the techniques I used to de-escalate the situation. I found this challenging because there are so many ways you can react to someone being angry and aggressive towards you. But in this situation, I had to be very resilient, careful with my choice of words and the tone of voice. I also had to be very particular about the way I tried to get through to the acting prisoner.

What was your favourite part of the application?

My favourite part of the application process, as strange as it may sound, was the actual interview. I was interviewed by a prison officer and an ex-prisoner and they assessed me on the answers I gave to their questions. This was my favourite part of the interview because they were very genuine and friendly in the way they related to me. Also, I got to have a chat to them about their experiences of prison and the prison system from both viewpoints and where they think the system needs to be reformed. I generally felt that it was very comfortable experience where they wanted to see how genuine you were about why you wanted to join the graduate scheme, instead of trying to catch you out and ask trick questions.

What would your be your 3 top tips to Bright Network members?

  1. Be open minded about the opportunities presented to you.
  2. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. The experience you gain from these challenges will benefit you throughout your professional career.
  3. Always ask questions and be very inquisitive about the role you are going to be stepping into. So that when you start, you can work efficiently and be well informed about what is going on around you as well as know how you can do your job to the best of your ability.

What was the hardest question you faced in the interview?

I was given a scenario to deal with by the interviewers where the prison wing was quite chaotic, and many prisoners were asking me for various requests. The requests were to associate with medical issues and other important issues which were well within their rights and important to their well-being. I was asked the order in which I would respond to the requests and I had to explain the reasoning behind my decision. I found this difficult because I had to think carefully about why attending to certain issues quicker than others was justified. Having no experience in the job at this point, I had no idea what the repercussions of my actions would have been. But I made sure that I explained the reasoning behind my decisions the best I possibly could.

Looking to follow in Tolumofe's footsteps? Discover live graduate opportunities with Unlocked.

Bright Network member, Tolumofe
Tolumofe, University of Birmingham
Unlocked, Prison Officer