A test to select the best?

We hear a lot these days about how the prison service is changing, and there is no doubt that in some areas it has made huge strides. For example, bringing prison health care under the auspices of the NHS, after some quirk meant it was left out in 1948, was a long overdue move. It means that highly vulnerable young offenders, with all their complex mental health needs, no longer have to put up with what was substandard health care.

Equally the National Offender Management Service, set up in 2004 to bring together the work of the prison and probation service, should begin to link up efforts by those working inside and outside the prison walls to bring an end to the revolving door of offending and reoffending.

So it is rather depressing to come across the new prison officer selection test which professes to assess “essential” abilities. Nowhere among the questions on counting fish fingers and getting to grips with the intricacies of the 24-hour clock is there anything on trying to gauge applicants’ attitude to caring for vulnerable people. One would hope such questions do at least crop up during the interview. But by setting this dumbed-down test the prison service is sending out the wrong message and attracting the wrong sort of person for a modern service.

See Prisons.

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