Unlocked: Prison scenarios


Thank you for expressing an interest in Unlocked Graduates.

This is a series of six questions to give you an idea of the situations you might be faced with when working in a prison environment.

In each question you are asked to select the most likely course of action you would take. Please note that this does not form part of the assessment process and you will be provided with feedback for each response you select. In many of these situations, there is more than one course of appropriate action and it requires fine judgement to decide what to do. We have made recommendations on each scenario on how you should respond.

To begin an application, please return to our website. Good luck!

Question 1

You are locking up cells at night-time when one prisoner tells you he needs to borrow a book from another prisoner. You have to make sure everyone is locked up in the next two minutes and the other prisoner's cell is 5 or 6 doors down the corridor. He is pleading with you, saying it won't take him long and that he has to have the book.

Correct! You should explain your reasons but be clear on the expectations.
Be careful - it is important to establish trust with prisoners but do not allow them to take this too far. Try again.
This is not a good idea - it could potentially make the situation worse and adversely affect the prison environment. Try again.

Question 2

You are overseeing the visits hall when you think you see a visitor passing a mobile phone to a prisoner. You have the prisoner removed to be searched but after he has left the room the visitor starts to become angry, shouting at you and your colleagues. There are twenty minutes of visit time remaining.

Correct! You should aim to de-escalate any situations quickly and calmly. It is also advised to take them somewhere quiet.
Be careful - this might make the situation worse as the visitor is already behaving in an angry manner. Try again.
This would not be a good idea - you don't want to cut short other visits with 20 minutes still to go. Try again.

Question 3

You are about to serve lunch to the 40 prisoners on your wing when you come across a prisoner who has just been told by the chaplaincy that a close relative has suffered a heart attack. He is in floods of tears in a public area of the prison, telling you how devastated he is. You have a particularly good rapport with this prisoner.

Correct! It is important to support prisoners where possible but you can't be in two places at once so use your colleagues.
Be careful - considering all the prisoners at all times is vital. This could lead to problems with other prisoners. Try again.
Whilst it is important to offer comfort and support, you must keep professional boundaries so this would be considered inappropriate. Try again.

Question 4

You are just finishing a day shift when you come across a prisoner who begins a conversation with you. Although she does not seem to be visibly upset, she tells you how unhappy she is, using phrases like "my life is worthless" and "I don't know what to do". You know this prisoner does not get on well with some of the other officers and you have a good rapport with her.

There are better options here. At the end of a shift you should feel able to leave confident that a situation will be dealt with. Try again.

Be careful - if someone shows signs of distress, it is important to record this before you leave your shift. Try again.

Question 5

Two prisoners are having a heated argument during association time and begin pushing each other. Although it is not especially aggressive, other prisoners are crowding around shouting and encouraging them to fight. There are no other officers around as far as you can see.

This is not a good idea as you may become caught up in the crossfire. Try again.
Correct! It is best to try and de-escalate the situation by speaking to the individuals and using support where there is a crowd involved. 
It is unlikely that this will help the situation as drawing your baton will be seen as an aggressive move by the prisoners. Try again.

Question 6

You are supervising on the wing during social time and whilst patrolling you notice a group of six prisoners sitting together in a communal area. They are having a religious meeting amongst themselves. Two of them have been convicted of terror offences. There have been concerns raised by prisoners and staff that the two prisoners in question may be attempting to recruit for a terrorist organisation.

Correct - you cannot assume that anything untoward is happening but make sure the situation is monitored.
This response is too drastic considering the lack of evidence. It may also cause a situation to arise with the prisoners. Try again.
This is not necessary as you do not have enough evidence that something might be about to happen. Try again.

Question 7

You’re a prison officer supervising your wing towards the end of your shift and you notice that a new prisoner on the wing has been bullying new inmates and swearing at other prisoners.

When you pull him aside during a quiet period on the landings, he discloses that he has been finding it difficult to settle into prison life. He claims that he hasn’t slept because his new cellmate has allegedly bullied him since he moved into his cell. He is worried about being in a cell with him.

Incorrect. Speaking with the cellmate before you have all the relevant information could escalate the situation

There are better options here. Whilst it is important to show you are listening, creating a short-term solution such as allowing the prisoner to switch cell could create more issues in the future

Correct! By showing that you’re actively listening to the prisoner’s concerns you’re identifying that you’re aware of the situation and making relevant other members of staff aware

Question 8

When a prisoner comes to prison, they are given the choice of ten numbers to call throughout the duration of their sentence. They may call through using a pin on the telephone wing.

It’s a particularly busy day when you come onto the landings for your shift and a prisoner complains that he has not been given a pin since his sentencing which was over 3 weeks ago. He hasn’t contacted his family in weeks and has asked you to let him use another phone in the prison so he can call his mother.

Incorrect. By refusing the request and dismissing a conversation, you could be potentially escalating a situation further.

Correct!  By showing you understand the situation but cannot immediately attend to the question, you’re highlighting that you will follow up with the prisoner when you’re able to do so.

Whilst it’s important to offer a solution to the issue, by letting the prisoner use the phone without supervision, there is always the possibility that the prisoner could call a prohibited number

Congratulations you have reached the end of the test! You should now have a better idea of the types of situations that prison officers face, the variety that the job offers and the skills that you can build in this role. If you haven't already done so, please register your details below if you would like to find out more about the programme and how to apply.