Prison Service event opens students' eyes to opportunities

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Date: 18th Jun 2020

A module run by the Prison Service with Buckinghamshire New University has been praised for opening up career opportunities for graduates.

Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, part of the module, running for a seventh year, saw staff from a range of prisons hold ‘World Café’ event discussions about their jobs with students in the Department of Psychology.

Prisons World Cafe event

Staff from Bullingdon, Aylesbury, Woodhill, Wormwood Scrubs, and Grendon prisons take part in the workshop for an Investigative & Forensic Psychology module, spending 15mins a time describing their role and responsibilities, before taking questions.

BSc (Hons) Criminological Psychology graduate Nayab Butt, 27, an Assistant Psychologist in the Pathways Complex Needs Service, says she was first alerted to opportunities in the Prison Service when she took part in the module as a student.

Nayab said: “When I started my degree I had no idea I would end up working in a prison and didn’t know much about the Prison Service until we held this event and I found out about the opportunities available.

“I didn’t realise that so much goes on in a prison and that there are so many other services and agencies you can work with. I hope by returning and sharing my experience I have given students a better idea of careers they could enter.”

The initiative is spearheaded by Carol Gaskin, Head of Health Partnerships at HMP Wormwood Scrubs, and a Visiting Professor who has also previously received an honorary degree from Bucks New University.

She said: “I am delighted that we have been able to build on this special relationship with Bucks New University. The students and the team from the Prison Service look forward to this event each year.

“It is an excellent opportunity to share our experiences of working within the custodial setting and to help the students reflect on whether this type of work would suit them once they graduate.

“I look forward to these three sessions each year and I am already beginning to plan for the Class of 2021.”

Bucks graduates

Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, Head of Psychology, said: “As a University we enjoy a good relationship with the Prison Service and these sessions are a vital part of students' learning about rehabilitation and punishment.

“They are an opportunity to break down any stigmas which may be associated with prisons and prisoners, and to hear about the reality of working with prisoners. It’s a positive side to a story which I feel is not always told in the media.

“These workshops provide students with a great chance to find out about the range of roles available in the Prison Service.

“Students discover more about the amazing rehabilitative work that’s undertaken and the challenges and the continual support and care required by those working in the Prison Service for people they are responsible for.

“Crucially, our students are receiving this information directly from those working in prisons so they get a great perspective.”

Leanne Carlisle, 26, graduated in BSc (Hons) Criminological Psychology in 2015 and is an Offender Management Unit Manager at Bullingdon Prison, which also operates a Young Offenders Institute.

She said taking part in the module when she was a student had given her ‘vital insight’ which had proved beneficial when she had later been interviewed for her role.

Leanne now manages a team of 19 people who oversee prisoners’ cases while they are in custody.

She added: “I feel my career to date shows that while you may not get that dream job straight away there are paths out there with an organisation like the Prison Service which lead you to enjoyable and fulfilling roles.

“I can remember being as confused as many of these students will be now about what I wanted to go on and do but meeting Prison Service staff opened up my eyes to the range of opportunities.

“It is partly thanks to my degree at Bucks New University, and the fact that this module was available, that I have progressed to where I am now.

“In fact, when I entered the Prison Service I wanted to work in the psychology area but then realised it wasn’t for me but have been able to progress to my current role, so there are a wide range of jobs available.”

World Cafe event

Bonnie Kingston also graduated in BSc (Hons) Criminological Psychology, in 2014, and is now an Interventions Facilitator in the Reducing Offender Programme at Bullingdon Prison and said she aims to go on to work with young offenders in secure units.

She said: “I have used my visit to Bucks New University to tell the students that there are so many different things they can do in the Prison Service and that it is an employer they could consider.

“When I left university I had no idea what I wanted to do, but that I wanted to work with childhood disorders. From there I did roles working with children with special educational needs and now I am in a job I find very satisfying and challenging.

“One of our modules at university was on childhood disorders and my interest took off from there, and I retain an ambition to work with young offenders.

“Now, I am enjoying working as an Interventions Facilitator. I am quite a nosy person and in this job you have to be quite nosy as you dig quite deep with the prisoners in to why they have committed crimes.”

The module also includes two further sessions. The first is led by Carol Gaskin on self-harm and bullying, where she is joined by Elizabeth Watson, a BSc (Hons) Policing graduate from Bucks New University; and the second is on risk assessment and management.

Find out about studying Psychology courses at Bucks New University by visiting www.bucks.ac.uk; emailing advice@bucks.ac.uk or calling 0330 123 2023.

Follow the Department of Psychology on Twitter at @BNUPsychology.

Pictured: The World Cafe event; and graduates Nayab Butt; Leanne Carlise; and Bonnie Kingston.

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