Prison Instructor Careers

How to become Prison Instructor

What does a Prison Instructor do?

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.

What's the working environment like working as a Prison Instructor?

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.

What does it take to become a Prison Instructor?

To be a prison instructor, you should:

  • be interested in and enthusiastic about your specialist trade
  • be able to communicate clearly and possess strong training skills
  • be interested in people, able to build good relationships and gain the trust of inmates
  • be able to motivate prisoners and help them make the most of their opportunities
  • be able to work closely with prisoners whilst keeping some emotional detachment
  • be capable of managing small groups of people
  • have patience and a sense of humour
  • have good judgement to assess potentially difficult situations
  • be able to apply safe working practices.

Prison Instructor Career Opportunities

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.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Prison Instructor that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

HM Prison Service
Recruitment Section
Cleland House
Page Street

The Scottish Prison Service
Calton House
5 Redheughs Rigg
EH12 9HW
Tel: 0131 244 8745

Skills for Justice
9 Riverside Court
Don Road
S9 2TJ
Tel: 0114 261 1499

Offenders' Learning and Skills Unit (Department for Education and Skills)
Northern Ireland Prison Service
Dundonald House
Upper Newtownards Road
Tel: 028 9052 5065

Facts and Stats:

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  • Every year, civil servants are responsible for public spending of around £300bn
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