From the TUC

After seven years of pay cuts, I’m not proud to be a prison officer anymore

19 Jul 2017, By Guest

I started working for the prison service in 2005. Back then I was proud of what I did.

I enjoyed the job and loved working with troubled teens. I had time to spend with the lads and could share my life experience. It felt like I was making a difference, helping them to turn their lives around. And as a single mother of four, I wanted to support my children through work.

Now it’s 2017 and I’m working longer hours and taking home less money than I did seven years ago. My rent and my shopping bill are going up but my wages aren’t because the government is holding down my pay.

I’m struggling to cope. Already I’ve cut back on luxuries so that I can make essential payments.

I’ve stopped taking a holiday each year, even though those breaks with my family meant the world to me. And I’ve had to tell my children they can’t continue with hobbies they love because we can’t afford it.

I often have to work long hours and extra shifts, sometimes because I need the money and sometimes because we’re understaffed. Last Tuesday, I went to work at 7.45am and didn’t get home until after two o’clock the following morning because of a prisoner incident.

When my children need glasses or extra lessons, I have to work overtime to pay for it.

Prison crisis

The prison service is in crisis, and that’s no secret.

I’m attending more violent incidents than before and have suffered injuries at work. I kiss every member of my family before I leave the house, praying that I’ll get home safe at the end of the day.

Staff morale is at an all-time low. We’re working harder for less pay, in extremely dangerous conditions, but we still aren’t valued. You start to feel like a human punchbag rather than a prison officer. Too many of my experienced colleagues have left the prison service altogether, switching into better-paid, less violent jobs.

Some days I wish I had chosen a different career. I walk around the shopping centre and envy the people who work there. But my experience is in the prison service and I’m good at my job. I can’t walk away and leave other people to deal with the mess the service is in.

Being a prison officer is always going to be a difficult job with lots of risk. Still, I believe my work is important and I want to present a happy, professional face to prisoners. But the message we’re being given is that prison officers – who dedicate their lives to keeping people safe – are simply not worth a decent pay rise.

I’m not proud to be a prison officer anymore. I don’t feel valued and I’m afraid to go to work. Worst of all, I feel I’ve let my children down because I can’t give them the opportunities they deserve.

I’d like to see government ministers spend a day in my shoes. Maybe then they’d understand that unless they lift the pay cap, the problems in our prisons will keep getting worse.

16 Responses to After seven years of pay cuts, I’m not proud to be a prison officer anymore

  1. Clive Taylor
    Jul 19th 2017, 8:11 pm

    I was in the service for 31 years last pay rise 2007, since then due to pension increase and increase in NI I took a pay cut
    Does not get better when you retire, left with a load of TOIL outstanding and annual leave, as I could not take it due to staff shortages.
    I am now fighting for the payment of this with SSCL Newport, trouble is I am now only on a mobile and my last call to them was £4.50 and I did’nt even speak to anyone just hanging on for the next available customer service
    So not only now getting ripped off in the job but also in retirement.

  2. Caroline
    Jul 20th 2017, 7:45 pm

    Laura how terrible and how brave you are to post this, I too work in a prison but for probation not the prison service although they’re not much better, I too work on the wings and having been there ten years and seen the cuts and decent staff being hurt or leaving it’s scary I too get scared and my job is only a third as scary and difficult as yours . Hats off to you Laura let’s pray someone takes notice and makes the right changes and supports and recognises the staff for the fantastic Hobbs you do , I fear for my colleagues on the wings all day

  3. N/A
    Jul 20th 2017, 9:59 pm

    I like my job. Been in 20yrs and love it

  4. Wayne haslam
    Jul 20th 2017, 11:02 pm

    Well done to this fine officer for saying as it currently is within our job.AMEN.

  5. Craig
    Jul 21st 2017, 4:26 pm

    I’ve been in the service 10 years and still love it! Yes it has its up and down moments and we can occasionally get of duty late due to an incident, but for you to work at 07:45hrs and not get home until 02:00hrs means you must have a) volunteered to stay on or b) have trained in something to help resolve the incident? Either way this is your choice and no one can make you stay, we choose to stay on to help because we pride ourselves in our work!
    I know things aren’t great at the moment and me personally I blame the POA as they haven’t done anything for many years now and don’t have any power this the main reason I left the Union!

  6. Richie
    Jul 21st 2017, 5:20 pm

    Just coming up to 30 years as a prison officer am semi retired on 20 hours a week plus undertaking payment plus.
    I still enjoy the job and this is because of the great staff that I work with, my confidence in the management at headquarters and the government is non existent, these people are destroying what was once the best prison service in the world.

  7. Kelvin Saunders
    Jul 21st 2017, 6:51 pm

    Time staff stopped chasing PP and took strike action, despite the law banning it, and starting at the official time. We have made the system work for years and the service and individual Governors have taken the piss for almost ten years. Stop moaning and take action, after 31 years I’ve seen the service become a dangerous and out of control place to work. The right to withdraw your Labour is a fundamental right and they can’t sack you or jail you. Stand up now or embrace a master and slave environment until privatisation.

  8. Gordon
    Jul 21st 2017, 9:25 pm

    I feel your pain Laura, and understand totally. As previously mentioned yes you volunteered to stay back during the incident, but that shows your character and your love for the job, that’s what makes working in prison worth while, the friendship is second to none and we all have each others back(well most) But sadly we are probably the most undervalued service out there. As some one said if we were to work to our contracted hours the management/government would have to do something. Sometimes we cam be our own worst enemy. Fingers crossed there will be change for the better soon. I am currently a serving prison officer of 19, years in Scotland.

  9. Cathy
    Jul 22nd 2017, 10:11 am

    We must take our share of the blame here too. Anytime a minister or anyone else was visiting and wanted to talk to a prisoner/ group of prisoners it was always the creme de la creme that was rolled out. First offenders realising what a mistake they had made or the long termers who were chasing parole and knew how to work the system by saying and doing all the things expected, but not “rehabilitated” in any real way. Just jail wise. They were never allowed to see the junkies/ disinterested or disorganised prisoner, never mind interview them. Can you blame them for thinking we work in a rose coloured environment when that is all that they are allowed to see. Next time one visits show them the weapons/ drugs seized and take them round the downgrade halls. These people NEED TO SEE what working life in a prison is really like. They NEED TO SEE the guys who come into person to stop them doing on the streets. They NEED TO SEE the violent prisoners held in the seg, Or whatever flowery word they call the place now, who for now who’s door is opened by four guys in gear and is going to be put back in mainstream with one officer opening him up tomorrow because those MPs change our goalposts without a single thought to our safety and our spineless management won’t sign the required paperwork for fear of litigation. That tomorrow means at least one staff heading to hospital in the next day or two with months of work to allow him/ her to recover from the injuries received because management and mps think we can rehabilitate monsters who should be inn a mental institution. We have become care in the community for these people all because mps wanted to make another quick buck and sold off all the mental institutions years ago. We are not equipped or trained to deal with most of these people. I have witnessed guy ripping his veins out with his teeth because of the life huge had led and this is one of them that you can talk to and reason with. By the way. I do love my job because if I didn’t i couldn’t go on every day. But eventually i too will have to think about leaving and finding something with less stress and more money. It’s not a job for anyone over 50’s, yet alone someone in their late 60s. No offence but they are just a pair of eyes and absolutely no use in a situation, leaving our over stretched and underpaid thinner staff to deal with it. I salute every colleague in every jail. SHAME ON OUR PARLIAMENT AND HOW THEY ARE TREATING US.

  10. John S
    Jul 22nd 2017, 8:50 pm

    32 yrs served, last 6 part time. Never thought I would want to put it all behind me. Now retired and happy to have done so and come out the other end relatively unscathed. Nothing but respect for the younger officers I left behind.
    The only thing I miss is the incessant banter. Yes and sometimes with the prisoners too but the inhabitants are changing as is the way the service is run. The problems arising stem from the very top and usually authored by people who should know better. All that matters is cost. Rehabilitation is a myth and always has been. If the prisoner is not ready to rehabilitate himself it will never happen no matter how many times the same old garbage is run out under a different scheme name and called a fresh initiative. Time to ditch the political correct idiocy stifling the whole service and look at the cold hard facts of an under resourced, under funded and under appreciated group of diligent, able and loyal people who are also under siege. Our governments of both persuasion do not deserve the dedication and stoicism offered on a daily basis by the cinderella service. Proud to have served alongside you Laura.

  11. john
    Jul 23rd 2017, 9:12 am

    I have been in the service for 16 years and I too loved my job until the government knocked this out of me with the way they think about and treat us. I am counting the years down until I retire is sad to think I have to wish my life away. This is only a job to me now where before I saw this as a career, but why would I take promotion when I will be earning even less money or the raise is so minor it doesn’t match with the responsibility that comes with the position.
    I could attempt to get a job which has less stress and is safer, holds the same responsibilities but would pay approx. £15.000 a year more. The only thing that keeps me attending every day is the experienced staff I work and laugh and joke with.

  12. N/A
    Jul 23rd 2017, 9:56 am

    What will it take for the government to finally take notice and take responsibility for the crisis they have created, unfortunately as many of us know it will be another strangeways and or a murder of a serving officer this is the reality we face everyday and with the smoking ban nearly being rolled out across the service this is what will happen I’m sorry to say in the not so distant future. Well you reap the rewards you sow. The government are no better that’ll the scum we bang up I just prey karma comes quickly and not at the expense of someone’s life. I apologise if this statement upsets some but this is how it is in the world we dedicated ones operate.

  13. Nicola Williams
    Jul 26th 2017, 5:10 pm

    Laura, you are the biggest bandit for PP in the jail, despite the union you chair asking staff not to work overtime! Your hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  14. Nicola Williams
    Jul 27th 2017, 3:45 pm

    Whatever SMT bandit above claiming to be me wrote that, please ensure next time that your grammar is better and your sentence structure improves!

    Laura doesn’t get to do any PP as she’s always doing POA work.

    So I’m sorry that she’s made you all look silly with her claims but we all know they’re true! And now I’ve been officially sacked I’ll endeavour to expose ALL of HMP Feltham SMT’s corruption and secrets in the very near future.

    Better luck next time!

    The real Nicola Williams :-)

  15. Laura
    Jul 27th 2017, 4:03 pm

    Well clearly someone has decided to hide behind my good friends name maybe as some kind of sick joke posted on the very day she was dismissed from the service. Let me just make something very clear in my article if you had read it correctly you would see I have stated I work overtime to give my kids the extra things they deserve. Why should they go without because my wages have decreased and the cost of living has increased. No doubt this post was written by someone who was informed of Nicolas departure prior to Nicola herself. I think I’m more upset that this person would do this to the poor girl after everything she has already been through. Also for the reord the POA have not asked people to withdraw from PP if they had then I would follow just as I did before. I understand the need for people to work overtime I wish they didn’t have to and public sector workers received the pay they deserve but that’s not the case. We as public sector workers deserve better including the person who hid behind Nicolas name. We need to keep campaigning for fair pay and refrain from having personal digs at each other. My article was about pay standing up for all of us it’s a shame more people didn’t turn up and do the same.

  16. N/A
    Jul 28th 2017, 12:00 am

    To Craig on 21st July:
    Unsure about your jail but when there is a large incident at our prison uniformed staff do not have the option of leaving as the gate is usually frozen. The only people able to leave are non-operational staff, those with real reasons to leave (such as childcare) and Governors