What We Learned From the Working in the Criminal Justice in the UK Event

This February, King’s students had the opportunity to attend the first ‘Working in the Criminal Justice System in the UK’ event, chaired by Professor Elaine Player (Criminology and Criminal Justice). Missed it? No worries – here’s what happened!

While the panel event’s main focus was on the career opportunities available within policing and the prison service, there was also a recurring discussion on the push for change within the UK’s criminal justice system. Increasingly, various agencies are being launched to encourage the recruitment of individuals who can create this change in the system. Their main goals?

  • To increase trust and perception of policing in areas that are socioeconomically deprived;
  • To improve the relationship between prisoners and prison officers;
  • To give prisoners a real chance at rehabilitation, therefore decreasing the risk of reoffending;
  • To create leaders within the Criminal Justice System that can advocate innovation and open discussion on the issues.

Two of these agencies are ‘Police Now’ and ‘Unlocked Graduates’, both of which are modelled on the successful Teach First programme, where graduates work for two years in a profession while also working on the development of their leadership skills. Both sent representatives to talk about their own experiences and the programmes offered to students like you!

Police Now

What is it: Police Now is a leadership development programme which lasts 2 years, training graduates to become high performing police officers. The mission revolves around improving the quality of the police service offered throughout the UK, by recruiting top-quality graduates. The motto of any police officer should be to protect and support, no matter who or where the individual comes from. Police officers from Police Now are commonly sent to areas where there is a high level of deprivation, so that there is scope to make a real impact on those they have contact with.

What does the training involve: Police Now is about training graduates leadership skills, rather than just arresting and cuffing. Academy training lasts for 6 weeks, and is an intensive programme led by current police officers. It involves classroom-based and practical sessions which will get participants ready for their first shift on the job. Any police officer will tell you that no single day is the same when out on the field, so after the 2-year programme there will be continuous learning and training.

Drawbacks: According to Tom Park-Paul, one of the police officers who designed and built Police Now, there is an existing culture of suspicion within the police system that they are trying to change. It is difficult to be different, so potential participants should be ready for some degree of isolation and hostility towards any change suggested.

What does a Police Now Graduate have to say: “When I applied to Police Now, I was working in management consulting. I was dissatisfied, and wanted to find a career where I could give back to society. Police Now was the best decision I could have made. As a police officer, I am considered a leader in my community – we are the ones people call when there’s a problem. It’s about more than being punitive and enforcing the law – it’s also about building relationships throughout the community and re-earning the trust of the people in those deprived areas.”

For more information, head to Police Now.

Unlocked Graduates

What is it: Unlocked Graduates is a two-year programme which allows participants to gain a Master’s in Leadership and Custodial Environments, while training to become a prison officer. It aims to develop “inspirational leaders within the prison system”, and to provide specialist information about prison environments. As prison officers, participants are taught to develop an understanding of how they can have a positive impact on current inmates. They are then encouraged to submit their ideas on new approaches that could support the rehabilitation of inmates, while minimising the risk of reoffending.

What does the training involve: The programme involves a 6-week intensive period of standard prison officer training, including two weeks spent stationed in prison. The MSc programme is delivered part-time over two years, in part online, covering a wide range of issues in criminal justice. Participants are assigned a mentor for the duration of the programme.

Drawbacks: As Ryan James, graduate of Unlocked’s first cohort in 2017 said, “the most difficult part of the job is challenging perspectives on rehabilitation. The idea that prisons should rehabilitate inmates rather than punish them was basically non-existent 20 years ago, so we are fighting against a well-institutionalised idea.”

What did Nim Gill, an ex-prisoner and now one of Unlocked Graduates’ assessors have to say: When I was in prison, I could see the gaps in the system. You want prison officers to be approachable and to break down those barriers between inmates and prisoners, to help the inmates rehabilitate. The only way to do that is to recruit exceptional individuals – and so when I got out of prison, I wanted to help and offer my own experience. Now, as an assessor, I look for individuals who can be leaders.”

For more information, head to Unlocked Graduates.