A thankless job
After graduating from University and spending a period of time travelling, I was at a bit of a loss as to what career path I was going to choose. I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a career in law, nor did I particularly want to continue studying. After working in a few low-key jobs, I knew that I had to find a job that would give me some sort of intrinsic satisfaction. Having returned home to live with my parents, I found an advert in a local newspaper where the Prison Service were recruiting. I applied along with a wide variety of other jobs and thought no more about it.
In no time at all I was invited to attend an assessment centre in London, where I was required to sit a maths and English test. After passing this, I did not hear anything for months until one day I was again summoned to London to complete a J-SAC (Job Simulation Assessment Centre). After successfully completing the assessment, I was given a start date to begin training – I was also informed that I would be working at Holloway, which filled me with complete dread as I had only heard sensational half-truths from the newspapers.
I had never really worked in the Criminal Justice System, nor had I any understanding about the complex issues regarding sending women to jail. I believe that this was in some way beneficial, as I was able to learn on the job without any pre-conceived notions. I have to point out that I loved working at Holloway, at times it was stressful and I saw things that beggared belief. Despite the constant negativity from the press and to a certain extent successive Governments, who the majority of which sat back and turned their heads away from the real issues, it was an amazing place to work.
The knock-on effect of the closure of Holloway in 2016 has been immense. A huge resource and a wealth of experience and skill was literally decimated within months. The sheer wealth of expertise in dealing with complex women, including pregnancy, drug and alcohol addiction, mental health, abuse and other issues far too numerous to mention was, what in my opinion made working in the female estate, so challenging but nonetheless rewarding.
Being a prison officer, can at times, be the most thankless job in the world. Our relationship with those under our care is often different than those of other professionals and can be fraught with difficulties. Not only do we have to walk a tight rope between maintaining security and balancing the well-being of prisoners, but we also have to be firm. In trying to maintain a semblance of discipline, we are often viewed by prisoners and other agencies in a negative light. We are the first people that prisoners see in the morning and the last they see at night – so it is vital that we form a professional but caring working relationship.
I have very much enjoyed my 15 years as a prison officer even though the last few years have been what can only be described as frustrating. A lot of challenges lie ahead with more investment needed in many areas of prison policy and operation, but this needs to come from the top.
The Freud in Prison conversation continues thinking about current forensic psychotherapy described in The End of the Sentence. A key part of the discussion will explore the correlation between the high number of inmates who are victims of childhood sexual abuse (estimated at 65% of offenders have been sexually abused). The other aspect for discussion, and related to the first, is the creative power of psychotherapy in a forensic setting.
Further information and tickets for the event can be found on the following website: https://www.freud.org.uk/event/freud-in-prison/#
Pamela Windham Stewart and Jessica Collier celebrate the launch of their new publication, The End of the Sentence.
“Geese Theatre Company is a team of theatre practitioners who present interactive theatre and facilitate drama-based group work, staff training and consultation for the probation service, prisons, young offender institutions, youth offending teams, secure hospitals and related agencies throughout the UK and abroad”.
For more information on the Geese Theatre Company projects please see: http://www.geese.co.uk/
“Inside Bitch is a devised ensemble performance from Clean Break’s Members, a playful subversion of the representation of women in prison and how things aren’t quite as seen on TV”.
For further information and tickets see: https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/insidebitch/
Public Policy event on tackling discrimination of BAME women in the Criminal Justice System.
“This crucial symposium will give clinicians, policy makers, local authorities, criminal justice services, and commissioners, the opportunity to address this growing problem. It will review current legislative framework, examine present government and third party reports on discrimination, racism, and mental health in women in the CJS”. See link below for further details:
New TED talk by Maureen Mansfield on the structural implications of restrictive funding models on the women’s sector.
“HMP Holloway was the largest women’s prison in Europe, historically holding numerous infamous female criminals and eliciting intrigue and fascination from the public. The End of the Sentence: Psychotherapy with Female Offenders documents the rich and varied psychotherapeutic work undertaken by dedicated specialists in this intense and often difficult environment, where attempts to provide psychological security were often undermined by conflicting ideas of physical security”.
See the following website for further details:
“Mothers Accused and Abused: Addressing Complex Psychological Needs brings together stories about mothers who are accused of harming, and in some cases killing, their children, children who subsequently harm or kill others and the challenges to professionals who work with them”.
Please see the following website for further information: