I’m a British Asian Man working as a Prison Officer

Mohammed Nasir spoke to DESIblitz about his experience of working as a prison officer at HMP Aylesbury and the daily duties the role requires.

I'm a British Asian Man working as a Prison Officer f

"you can carry out many different roles within any one day."

The prison service sector is an evolving one with British Asians being encouraged to apply for prison officer roles.

In this landscape, DESIblitz had the privilege of speaking to Mohammed Nasir.

The 33-year-old has worked at HMP Aylesbury for a year and a half, having previously taught Arabic abroad.

Mohammed represents a small percentage of ethnic minority people working as prison officers in the UK.

According to the 2011 Census, 14.4% were from combined Asian, Black, Mixed and Other ethnic groups.

However, this percentage fell to 7.7% in March 2020.

Now in a business support role, Mohammed provides an insight into the daily life of a prison officer and the challenges that come with the role.

As we dive into Mohammed’s story, his interactions hold a profound impact and could ignite more British Asians to follow this type of career.

What motivated you to become a prison officer?

I'm a British Asian Man working as a Prison Officer

A family member worked in the chaplaincy here at HMP Aylesbury, so I was fortunate enough to do some voluntary work at the prison, which piqued my interest.

So I decided to apply to join the service as an officer and that’s where my journey began.

Can you describe your daily responsibilities and duties?

The prison officer role is really varied.

People think it’s just about locking and unlocking doors but there’s so much more to it than that.

As an officer, you can carry out many different roles within any one day.

One minute you’re a peacekeeper, the next you’re a counsellor or a teacher. 

What did you enjoy the most about being a prison officer?

I enjoy helping people, which is what being a prison officer is all about.

I have enjoyed sitting down one-on-one with prisoners and really getting to understand their issues.

After you’ve built a rapport over a long period of time, it’s rewarding to start seeing positive changes in the prisoners.

So a lot of the role is about talking and connecting with the prisoners – helping them day-to-day.

What were the most challenging aspects of the job and how did you handle them?

Being a prison officer presents specific challenges as you are dealing with some of the most vulnerable members of society.

However, these challenges can be overcome through the appropriate support and training.

It is always challenging when a prisoner is dealing with a bereavement, such as the death of a loved one.

“Situations of this nature require a great level of professionalism and genuine care from a prison officer.”

An officer will be able to signpost prisoners to other areas of the prison service that can help them.

For example, we may need to put them in touch with the chaplaincy who is able to provide pastoral care to help the prisoner through the grieving process. 

What training and preparation are required?

The training course is usually around eight weeks and combines both the theoretical knowledge of the justice system with physical training, including control and restraint techniques.

There are short competency tests along the way that you must pass to meet the criteria.

Once you’ve completed the training course, you’d usually do two weeks of onsite experience, shadowing senior experienced officers.

How do you maintain professionalism while interacting with inmates who may have committed serious offences?

The best way to approach a situation like this is to refer to the HMPPS statement of purpose – which states that the duty of officers and other staff is to look after those who have been committed by the courts with humanity and to cultivate a positive change within the inmates.

Our job is not to place judgment.

The court process has already achieved this.   

How did your role as a prison officer impact your personal life and well-being?

Being a prison officer has had some positive impacts on my personal life, including being more security conscious.

“I am more aware of the environment around me and able to see a potential situation arise and consider how it could be solved.”

The prison officer role has also made me more aware of my own health.

I am now more conscious of exercise and staying fit and healthy which has overall improved my quality of life.

What could be done better to recruit more prison officers from ethnic minority backgrounds?

In my opinion, one of the most effective ways to engage with people from ethnic minority backgrounds is to do exactly that! Engage with such communities.

This can be done in various ways.

Even though the vast majority of the work inside prisons is confidential and takes place behind closed doors, interviews with staff (such as me!) who are from ethnic backgrounds, help to shine a line on the roles in the service and the fantastic people who play a key role in keeping the public safe and rehabilitating prisoners. 

Explain a bit more about your business support role

I'm a British Asian Man working as a Prison Officer 2

The business support role I am working in consists of a range of duties, all focused on the business needs of the establishment.

This can include a range of tasks including printing confidential documents, arranging legal visits and overseeing official visits.

My work in the department ensures processes within the establishment are able to function effectively. 

As our conversation with Mohammed Nasir comes to an end, he encourages more ethnic minority people to join the prison service.

He adds: “If you are thinking about a career in the service, my advice is to go ahead and do it.

“The prison service recognises and respects people from all backgrounds, which is so important – there is a lot of support and understanding from colleagues.

“If you are Muslim, for example, and you are thinking working in the service might impact observing Ramadan – it won’t. It hasn’t affected me and my colleagues in that way, at all.

“There are also so many different avenues you can go down once you’ve joined.

“It was only after I joined HMP Aylesbury that I began to realise the breadth of roles in the service that were available. It can certainly be a career for life.”

Through Mohammed’s experiences, we gain insights into the benefits and challenges that come with being a prison officer.

Dhiren is a News & Content Editor who loves all things football. He also has a passion for gaming and watching films. His motto is to "Live life one day at a time".

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