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First Prison Officers on Unlocked Graduates programme at Leeds Trinity University have graduated

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Students from the first cohort of the award-winning Unlocked Graduates programme at Leeds Trinity University have successfully completed a two-year leadership development graduate scheme.

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The Unlocked 2020 cohort graduated with a Masters in Applied Custodial Leadership at a ceremony at St Mary’s London on Thursday 20 October.

Unlocked has worked in partnership with Leeds Trinity since 2020 to deliver a national leadership scheme that involves a combination of classroom-based learning, as well as practical frontline work on the landings as Prison Officers.

The MSc has been designed by Leeds Trinity’s Head of Prisons and Custody Dr Danielle McDermott and Senior Lecturer and Programme Co-ordinator Claire Vilarrubi who, between them, have over 20 years' experience working in the Prison Service. The duo is supported by fellow lecturers, Andi Brierley, Emma Tymon, and Sarah Waite.

The course is innovative and practical, providing students with specialist knowledge, advanced understanding of the prison environment, and the skills and expertise to change attitudes and perceptions.

Dr Danielle McDermott said: "Over the course of the past two years, we have had the pleasure of seeing our students develop, learn and grow as leaders of the future. They have brought forward new ideas to reform the prison system, led positive change, and have no doubt improved outcomes for people in prison. It’s a proud moment in my career to have helped create this applied Masters programme, staffed by practitioners with a wealth of experience, to develop and support the next generation of leaders within the criminal justice system. It was a pleasure to join the class of 2022 at their graduation ceremony and wish them all a successful career.”

Since the Unlocked Graduates programme launched, over 10,000 applications have been submitted with over 600 participants placed in prisons across the UK in the last five years. This graduating cohort started their journey in 2020 and worked throughout tough lockdown measures to make an impact on the frontline.

The new recruits have completed two years of working in prisons across the country while they also dedicated their time to their studies.

The principle at the heart of the Unlocked programme is a belief that the way to change prisons and break cycles of reoffending is through developing exceptional prison officers. The prison officer is the only professional who can build a relationship with every single prisoner – including the most vulnerable and challenging. They set the culture on the landings and have the power to create a safe and secure environment focused on rehabilitation.

Natasha Porter, CEO and founder of Unlocked Graduates, said: “We are enormously proud of the class of 2020 for all of their achievements over the past two years. The prison officer role hasn’t traditionally appealed to the top graduates before, so it’s fantastic to see so many talented people recognise that this is an amazing opportunity to help reduce reoffending rates and apply their undoubted talent to a hugely challenging and important public service. In these difficult times people are joining Unlocked because they want to make a difference, to do something meaningful and positive, and this cohort have done a really excellent job.

“I am delighted to be continuing to work in partnership with Leeds Trinity University for our intensive training. Making this happen during a global pandemic has been a huge challenge and we are very grateful to have such a supportive partner organisation – one that really understands the importance of what we are trying to achieve.”

For more information, visit the Unlocked website.