A FEMALE prison officer has shared her experiences of what it’s like to be a woman working inside a male prison near Rugby on International Women’s Day (Wednesday March 8).
Ambitious Jessica Hardy, who swapped the stage for the wings of HMP Onley, says her group of colleagues is ‘like a big family’.
The 21-year-old studied professional dance and musical theatre at college – but with a family history of working in the service, she was destined to wear the prison officer uniform.
She did work experience at a prison service college when she was 15 and then worked in private sector security for 18 months before she joined HMP Onley in July 2021.
She has now been promoted to a custodial manager where her role involves overseeing visits by prisoners’ families.
She said: “When I did work experience, I learned lots of things you wouldn’t ordinarily know that opened my eyes to what people do behind the big gates.”
Describing herself as passionate about the prison service, Jessica likes reading policies to keep herself up to date.
“I love my job,” she said. “It’s about as far away as you can get from dance and theatre, but I knew there would be stability and a job for life.
“At HMP Onley we all work together in a tight-knit group. Everyone’s very supportive. It’s like a big family as it’s important we stick together.
“I’m ambitious and want to keep getting promoted, but I enjoy this role. You’re there to maintain security but there’s lots of interaction with members of the public too. It’s interesting and means taking a different approach to what you would working on the wing, for instance.
“It is not just locking doors. You learn new skills and there are so many opportunities across the service. If you want to progress it’s there, you just have to work hard for it.”
HMP Onley is a category C local resettlement prison and houses around 700 men. It is a training prison, providing education and training opportunities for men to increase their chances of employment when they return to their communities.