Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs About Working In Offender Education

What does OLASS mean?

OLASS stands for Offender Learning and Skills Service. OLASS is the system that is currently used throughout sites in the UK for the education of offenders. This enables offenders to gain skills and qualifications that can lead to them gaining sustainable employment and becoming a positive contribution to society on release.

How many prisons are there in the UK?

There are currently 155 prisons across the UK. The Education Departments of these sites are managed by multiple education providers, generally determined by location.

Do I need teaching qualifications to work in a prison?

You will need the minimum qualifications requested for the role you are applying for. You do not require any specialist training specific to prisons as this will be provided.

Is it safe to work in a prison?

Yes, there are robust security processes to ensure staff are kept safe. Class sizes tend to be smaller than FE colleges and some Education areas have constant Officer presence.

Are there and restrictions on the resources that can be used?

Yes, all resources need to be appropriate and not provocative or offensive. You will need a pro-active approach to resources as memory sticks and IT are restricted. Many classrooms have interactive whiteboards but resources may need to be emailed in.

What’s the environment like?

Every establishment is different. Some Education provision is delivered in large, purpose built buildings with light and spacious facilities. Others are on the houseblocks or in workshops.

Are there opportunities for training and development?

Specific opportunities will vary from provider to provider however generally, training and development is promoted through a dedicated training manager and CPD modules offered throughout the year. There is also great potential for quick rates of progression.

Is there a uniform?

Only in the form of standard Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), if you deliver vocational training.

What is the dress code?

Generally smart. Each establishment may have their own dress code but as a rule, no sleeveless tops, sandals or flip flops, no jeans or anything too short or low cut.  

Are you told what the learners offences are?

No. As all settings are safe and it is not relevant to the service delivered, there is no reason for this to be discussed.

What subjects are on offer to learners?

A wide variety depending on various factors, but generally a reflection of an FE provision. This includes English, Maths, IT. Vocational Training is also key to Offender Learning, including Construction, Multi-skills and Hairdressing, with a selection of personal, social and employability qualifications.

What are the working hours?

This can depend on the Regime the establishment operates but generally a 37 hour working week will comprise of 8am start, 5pm finish with one hour for lunch Mon to Thursday and an earlier finish on Fridays.

FAQs About Working In Prisons

How many Prisons are there in the UK?

There are 123 prisons currently operating in England and Wales. There are also a number of historical prisons that are no longer in use.

What are the different types of Prison?

There are over 100 prisons across the UK, serving a wide range of purposes. It is particularly useful to check an establishment purpose before you apply for a role, to ensure that the prison is in a category that you would like to work in. 

There are four different security categories, as well as Female/YOI and reform prisons:

Category A – Category A prisoners are those that would pose the most threat to the public, the police or national security should they escape. Security conditions in category A prisons are designed to make escape impossible for these prisoners.

Category B – Category B prisoners do not need to be held in the highest security conditions but, for category B prisoners, the potential for escape should be made very difficult.

Category C – Category C prisoners cannot be trusted in open conditions but are considered to be prisoners who are unlikely to make a determined escape attempt.

Category D – Category D prisoners can be trusted in open conditions.

Reform Prisons - A reform prison operates with greater freedom than standard prison categories currently benefit from.

Autonomous governors will be able to exercise greater control over all areas of reform in their establishment, rather thanhaving to keep them in line with national policies that may not integrate well with a particular prison.

The six reform prisons are HMP Wandsworth in London, HMP Holme House in County Durham, HMP Kirklevington Grange in North Yorkshire, HMP Coldingley and HMP High Down in Surrey, and HMP Ranby in Nottinghamshire and currently covers about 5,000 of the 85,000 prison population.

Un-sentenced prisoners, or prisoners on remand awaiting trial, are generally housed in category B accommodation unless they have been provisionally classified as category A.

Unless they have been deemed category A, then female prisoners and young offenders are not categorised. They are only classified as suitable for open conditions or suitable for closed conditions.

Is there a uniform?

 Yes, you will be provided with a uniform when you start.

What are the working hours?

On average, you will work a 37 hour week. This will be shift work and you will be required to work some nights, weekends and bank holidays. You may need to do some long days.

Are there opportunities for training and development?

When you start, you will spend the first ten weeks on a Prison Officer Entry Level Training (POELT) course, developing the necessary skills to work with offenders. You may receive other training whilst on the job in things like anti-social behaviour or anti-bullying. There are opportunities for promotion throughout the Prison service.

Do I need any qualifications?

No, you generally don’t need any specific qualifications to work in Offender Management, in roles such as a Prison Officer. Employers are more interested in your experiences and your personal qualities. You do need to be over 18 and have lived in the UK for over 3 years.

What does a Prison Officer do?

A Prison Officer is in charge of the safety, supervision and rehabilitation of people sent to prison. As well as custodial duties, a prison officer needs to develop good relationships with the prisoners to help rehabilitate them. Prison officers need to be able to react quickly and think on their feet if any difficulties arise. Responsibilities can include security checks on visitors and prisoners, providing care and support for vulnerable prisoners, maintaining order, and dealing with any incidents if they arise.

FAQs About Working In Resettlement

What does the phrase ‘TTG’ mean and how does it relate to Resettlement?

TTG stands for Through the Gate which is just another term for Offender Resettlement. These are the services provided to ex-offenders as they go ‘through the gate’ and start reintegrating with society. TTG aims to make this reintegration a success and helps provide the support they may need to readjust to life outside of prison.

What do Resettlement Staff actually do?

Resettlement Staff have a number of different responsibilities depending on their position. Many Resettlement Staff offer support in a variety of areas, such as housing, debt management, finance, benefits, employment, education, training and more. Their daily responsibilities may involve: training staff, training offenders to act as peer mentors, creating resettlement plans, signposting to relevant services, meeting with their clients (offenders), or offering support in a particular area. Depending on the position you choose your role will have various responsibilities, but all of them will give you the opportunity to make a difference.

Do Resettlement Staff ever go into prisons?

Yes, resettlement support usually starts right at the beginning of someone’s sentence. Resettlement Staff may start their involvement by dealing with any issues that arise at the start of the sentence, such as benefits issues or pets left at home. Typically, they will then meet their client in prison at the beginning of the sentence and at the end to ensure a resettlement plan is in place. Resettlement Staff may also work inside prisons to provide support to people inside or to train offenders to become Peer Mentors. These are offenders who volunteer or work for Resettlement organisations inside the prison to provide support when external staff are not or cannot be there.

Are there different types of Resettlement Staff?

Yes, there are a number of different roles within the Resettlement sector. These include Resettlement Workers, Peer Support Officers, Housing Caseworkers, Team Leaders, Resettlement Caseworkers and many, many more. You can find out more about the different roles and what they involve by clicking here, alternatively you can click here to see the latest jobs in the sector. 

Is there a uniform?

Some Resettlement organisations may provide a uniform to their staff, but there is no compulsory uniform across the sector. If the organisation does not provide a uniform, the dress code may vary, but will generally be relatively smart – so nothing too short, low cut or revealing.

What are the working hours?

Working hours may vary and will depend on your employer. However, they will probably be usual working hours and follow a usual 9 to 5 structure.

If I’m an ex-offender, can I still work in Resettlement?

Yes, many organisations within Resettlement, such as St Giles Trust or Bounce Back, will hire ex-offenders and like doing so. They know that your life experiences make you more able to empathise and understand the challenges and struggles that their clients are dealing with.