Instructors train prison inmates in a variety of vocational subjects, to both help them make good use of their time in prison and to gain skills for employment after their release.
Instructors in prisons may be prison officer (instructors) - uniformed prison officers with particular skills and qualifications which they use to train inmates, or instructional officers - qualified civilians who are employed to train inmates and run work programmes.
The prison service engages prisoners in a wide range of activities including producing clothes and textiles; tailoring; knitwear; weaving; engineering; sheet metalwork; fabrication; plastic moulding; paint finishing; woodworking; motor vehicle mechanics; printing; leatherwork; construction skills such as plumbing, bricklaying and painting and decorating; horticulture and catering. Instructors train prisoners in their specialist trade.
Prisons also run education programmes to encourage inmates to improve their literacy, numeracy and life skills.
Commercial enterprises may be set up to provide goods and services within the prison or outside, such as farm produce, data entry and word processing services. In some establishments these commercial enterprises are run by private companies on contracts with the prison service. In these cases the company employs the instructors/trainers.
Inmates are actively encouraged to work towards qualifications such as NVQs/SVQs and City and Guilds qualifications.
Instructors generally work a 37 hour, five day week. Location varies according to the subject being taught. It may be indoors in small factories, workshops or classrooms, or outdoors if involved in farming or horticulture.
As instructors are working in a prison environment, they must be safety and security conscious at all times for their welfare and the welfare of inmates.
To be a prison instructor, you should:
In England and Wales, there are approximately 1,000 civilian instructors. That number is likely to increase as the prison population is rising. However, opportunities for prison officers to move into instruction and training are declining, as Home Office policy is to recruit more civilian instructors.
In Scotland few civilian instructors are recruited as preference is given to recruiting prison officers with the practical skills or trades to teach inmates.
Instructors are generally recruited as grade 1 instructional officers and may be promoted to higher instructional officer. Some may move up to managing a training centre or unit, or working in a head office.
There has been significant growth recently in the use of private companies in prison work. Each of these companies will have its own way of managing the role of those who work as instructors.
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