In the UK, a prison governor, or operational manager, is responsible for the management and security of prisons, remand centres and young offenders' institutions.
The work varies according to the size and type of establishment. Establishments range from high security prisons holding category A prisoners to open prisons for category D prisoners. In most prisons there are several governors on different grades responsible for different areas of the prison's management.
Governors' work may involve supervising security, making inspections, carrying out disciplinary procedures, writing reports and liaising with other professional staff who visit the prison, such as medical staff, probation officers, and social workers. Other responsibilities include training, working on admissions, and sitting on parole boards.
Prison governors might also work in national headquarters or have responsibility for training other staff at prison service colleges.
Hours of work are variable, and can be long with no additional payment for extra hours. They may include evenings and weekends, but work at night is less common. The work is mainly indoors within the prison. Prison buildings vary from modern to very old and overcrowded, although most older prisons have now been refurbished.
Governors also attend meetings, courses and conferences outside the prison.
Prison governors should:
There are three separate prison services covering England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. In addition, there are a number of private or contracted out prisons which do not have governors, but have a Director instead. The Director of a private prison is assisted by a 'Controller', appointed by the Home Office.
Entry and training varies between these services. Prospective governors would need to pass medical, eyesight and fitness tests, and should be a UK citizen or EU national and be prepared to relocate if necessary.
In England and Wales there are two main routes into becoming a prison governor. The first is for existing staff to move up through the ranks (from being a prison officer, for example, or to move across from other management roles.
The second route is through the Prison Service Intensive Development Scheme (IDS) and is only open to those holding degrees. Applicants are selected based on experience and psychometric and written tests. With this scheme it is possible to reach senior management in less than five years rather than the usual average twenty years.
In Scotland, there are two ways to enter. This is again through promotion from prison officer ranks or through direct entry. Direct entry applicants usually need a degree and substantial management experience.
Entry to governor jobs is competitive, by whichever route. In England and Wales graduate vacancies are advertised each year (usually October) in the national press. Opportunities for direct entry in Scotland are advertised in both the Scottish and national press.
In Northern Ireland staff levels are reducing so entry is more difficult.
The companies that run private prison establishments each have their own entry requirements and recruitment methods.
Experienced managers are encouraged on the direct entry schemes. Relevant experience in the armed forces or police is considered useful. The upper age limit for prison governor entry is 57.
Training is tailored to individual needs, depending on previous experience. In England and Wales graduates on the IDS undertake basic prison officer training over the first few weeks, split between a prison establishment and the Prison Service College, followed by up to twelve months as a uniformed prison officer, then progressing to senior officer with responsibility for a group of staff. During training the governor will take up posts in different prisons at different senior grades.
The next progression is to trainee operations manager, speed of this progression is determined by individual ability. At each stage you will sit exams at an assessment centre and be supported by mentors and a structured training programme.
In Scotland direct entrants follow a two year Individual Management Development Programme, working in prisons as unit managers while training.
There are currently 139 operational prisons in England and Wales, 16 in Scotland and three in Northern Ireland.
The number of prison governors has remained stable in recent years in England and Wales. Scotland has seen a slight increase. The Northern Ireland Prison Service has been reducing the number of staff in recent years and does not expect to be recruiting in the near future.
Prisons are located all over the country in rural and urban areas. Male and female prisoners are usually housed separately. Governors and operational managers can be posted to any establishment in the country.
Movement from one job to another is on merit by local selection. Staff moving into senior posts must first pass a job simulation assessment.
An experienced governor can work at headquarters, prison service colleges or training units. Senior governors can have responsibility for several prisons.