A day in the life of a Prisoner Custody Officer (Prisons).

During our training we were shown the right way of doing things and just as importantly, we were warned against doing things the wrong way. One comment that was passed on to us was that “people are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment”. The Prisoner Custody Officers (PCOs) do not sit in judgement of the prisoners. We are there to guide and assist them through the daily routine of prison life. Which is just what much of a typical day is. Routine. We expect the prisoners to do certain things at certain times; and they expect the same in return from us.

Security is of paramount importance, so it is vital that we know how many prisoners we’ve got and that they are exactly where they should be. A typical day for me starts with my first task; inspecting every cell to ensure the wellbeing of the prisoners as well as physically checking their presence. This is followed by a check around the unit to make sure that everything is safe and secure before we unlock the prisoners for breakfast and the start of their day.

Employment is available in the prison workshops, along with education facilities which can cover everything from basic literacy lessons to Open University tuition. Prisoners are also employed on the residential units themselves, keeping living areas clean and tidy and serving the meals.

It’s all part of improving every day life for the prisoners, preparing them for the structure of life ‘on the outside’ when they are released. However, at 7.30am all that is on the prisoners’ minds is breakfast and it is crucial that the PCOs make sure that everything is available on time. Getting the simplest things right and ensuring there are no delays right at the start can make a huge difference to the whole pattern of the day.

At lunchtime all the prisoners return to their units for their midday meals. After lunch, all prisoners are locked up again so that another check can be made that everyone is still present. When everyone is accounted for, the prisoners return to work for the afternoon period.

At the end of the prisoners’ working day, they return to the unit for their evening meal, after which the unit is open for free time/association. Here the prisoners can make use of facilities such as pool and table football. The PCOs’ working day ends with the evening lock up, when prisoners make their way to their cells for a final headcount and some ‘alone time’ after a busy day spent in the company of their neighbours.

“Getting the simplest things right and ensuring there are no delays at the start
can make a huge difference to the whole pattern of the day.”

Ruth Jones
Prisoner Custody Officer

Prisoner Custody Officer | About the job

No two days are the same for a Prisoner Custody Officer (PCO). Our operating philosophy seeks to normalise life inside prison to reflect life in the outside community whilst maintaining a safe and secure environment for everyone.

Are you the person we’re looking for?

Being a PCO isn’t always plain sailing. It requires excellent interpersonal and communication skills, determination, motivation, initiative, adaptability and flexibility. You’ll be dealing with a wide variety of people as well as following processes and procedures in line with training and regulations, so the ability to follow instructions is essential.

We need people from a broad range of backgrounds with life experience who are good at listening to others, vigilant, non-judgmental and able to remain calm and in control under pressure. As part of our team of PCOs you’ll face many challenges so you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and use your initiative.

What will I be doing?
  • Controlling the internal and external movements of prisoners
  • Searching prisoners, cells and premises, confiscating prohibited items
  • Helping prisoners to address offending behaviour whilst reinforcing positive behaviour
  • Supporting and protecting prisoners who are experiencing difficulties and/or abuse
  • Contributing to the control of incidents and emergencies when required
  • Communicating effectively with people and working well as part of a dedicated team
  • Completing and maintaining prisoner records, documentation and reports
  • Escorting prisoners to hospital appointments and other locations
Frequently asked questions

What are the hours and shifts like?
Hours are usually based on a shift pattern which covers days, nights, evenings and weekends. Your working hours will depend on the position that you’ve applied for.

Do I need previous experience in this type of work?
No. We welcome people from all backgrounds with life experience. Your positive attitude, motivation and non-judgmental, disciplined approach are essential to succeed.

What training will I receive?
In order to become a PCO, you’ll attend our comprehensive Home Office approved Initial Training Course (ITC) which covers skills such as communication, security, first aid and control and restraint. The ITC is followed by shadow training where you will be paired with an experienced PCO in order to gain practical experience in all aspects of the job.

Is there a review programme for PCOs?
Once you have started your ITC, you’ll have a weekly support review which will continue throughout your training and during the first six months in your new role. We also hold annual reviews to inform you of your progress and highlight any development opportunities as well as discussing your future plans and requirements.

Are there any opportunities for promotion or development?
We have a management development programme which is designed to help you develop the necessary skills and experience required in management roles. There are also opportunities to transfer to other areas of the prison such as visits or admissions as well as additional training programmes if you wish to become a first aid assessor, fire marshall or gym instructor.

What are the benefits of working for G4S?
We invest heavily in our people and offer benefits that you would expect from a large quality organisation including generous holiday entitlement, life assurance, company pension, sick pay scheme, comprehensive training, career development and a uniform.