Young graduate smashes stereotype of prison officers at Woodhill in Milton Keynes

You don't have to be big and burly to be a prison officer, says Zeba

Thursday, 13th May 2021, 12:25 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th May 2021, 12:26 pm

A young woman called Zeba is the forefront of a campaign by Milton Keynes's HMP Woodhill jail to recruit more prison officers.

Zeba will be speaking at an online careers event about the job she loves - and the the importance of having a diverse prison workforce.

She said: “I get a lot of questions about being a young, female prison officer from an ethnic minority background, but I just prove you don’t need to be the stereotypical big burly man to do the job.

Officer Zeba

“I do think I’ve broken a few stereotypes of being a prison officer but at the end of the day the most important skillset you need to succeed in this role is communication, you don’t have to look a certain way."

Zeba started her career through the Unlocked graduate scheme, which gave her a change to get hands on experience of the job while studying for her Masters. And so far she loves her work.

“I joined the service because I knew I didn’t want a normal 9 to 5 job, I didn’t want to be stuck behind a desk, I wanted to be making a difference. My role as an officer, facilitating rehabilitation and helping prisoners back on the right track, helps me do this on a daily basis - there is really no other job like being a prison officer.”

Already she has made an impact in the jail by helping inmates celebrate Eid during lockdown. She used the Unlocked Innovation funding scheme to organise a socially distanced celebration, complete with decorations and goodie bags containing religious gifts.

Woodhill is encouraging more people to become prison officers

“Coming from an ethnic minority background has definitely helped me build a better working relationship with the prisoners. Especially during periods like Ramadan or Eid festival, where you can relate through lived experience," she said.

“I would really encourage individuals from diverse backgrounds to join the service, there is so much good work that is being done in prisons and you can make a real difference to the lives of so many people and be a positive part of their rehabilitation journey.”

The two free online webinar events are taking place next Monday and Tuesday, May 17 and 18. Hosted by Woodhill and HMP Swinfen Hall in Onley, they will enable people to learn about career prospects .

Prison bosses believe many people don’t really know what a prison officer does, and they have misconceptions about the type of people who become prison officers.

HMP Swinfen Hall governor Ian West said: “This webinar is an excellent opportunity to see what life inside a prison is really like, and to hear from staff about their experiences changing lives every day.

"There’s no such thing as a typical prison officer and no such thing as a typical day. It’s not just locking and unlocking doors - you’re a role model for the prisoners. You’re trying to coach, mentor, educate and rehabilitate."

To find out more about the webinars, click here.