Recruitment processes play a key role in ensuring prisons have staff with the required skills, knowledge and attitude to perform their role with respect for the dignity and human rights of detainees. Prison systems therefore need an active recruitment policy, which has a clear idea of the kind of people they wish to recruit, sets out the nature of the work to attract the right candidates, and has criteria and procedures for selection, which include the appropriate character, skills and qualifications as well as considerations of diversity.
A number of international and regional standards provide that prison staff shall be carefully selected, with great emphasis on the need for professional capacity, integrity, humanity, and personal suitability for the complex work that they will be required to do. Recruiting the right staff not only means they will be well-equipped to carry out the job, it also increases the likelihood that they will gain satisfaction from their work and remain motivated and committed. This section focuses on the recruitment of prison officers, who carry out the operational task of running prisons on a day to day basis and have direct contact with detainees.
Active recruitment policy
Many prison services find it difficult to recruit the right personnel (of a high quality and sufficient diversity). This can be for a variety of reasons including unattractive conditions of employment, difficult working environment, low social status and competition from other government agencies. This can result in problems such as reduced performance and increased turnover and absenteeism. An inadequate staff/detainee ratio can make it more difficult for staff to carry out their functions and lead to an insecure environment within the prison. Prison services should therefore have a policy that proactively seeks to attract suitable applicants.
Defining the minimum requirements
To recruit the right staff, prisons systems need to develop a clear idea about the type of persons they want to attract and employ. International and regional standards provide that prison staff should have civilian status and should not be drawn from police or military institutions. Women should have equal opportunities to work in prisons as men.
Working in prisons is a complex job and requires a variety of attributes and skills. For prison officers, who come into direct contact with detainees on a day to day basis, particular emphasis should be placed on:
1.The personal character of the applicant, including the attributes of integrity, humanity and respect for diversity;
2. Interpersonal communications skills including the ability to build positive relationships, diffuse tensions and deal with difficult situations; and
3. A minimum level of education.
In the recruitment process for prison officers, it is important to make sure that candidates respect diversity and have a non-discriminatory approach to persons in situations of vulnerability with whom they will work in the prison. These groups may include: women, children, foreign nationals, ethnic minorities, LGBTI persons, and persons with disabilities.
Working with juveniles deprived of their liberty is a challenging task which requires specific skills and personal attributes. Recruitment processes for centres where juveniles are detained should seek to carefully select staff: with personal maturity and ability to cope with the challenges of working with - and safeguarding the welfare of – juveniles; who are committed to working with young people, and capable of guiding and motivating the juveniles in their charge; and of mixed gender, as the presence of both men and women staff can have a positive effect on the environment in detention centres for juveniles.
Attracting suitable candidates
To attract suitable candidates, prison systems need to disseminate information clearly setting out the nature of prison officer work, the attributes and skills required as well as the organisation values which staff are expected to respect and apply. This information should be included in a job description for each role. Specific outreach activities may be necessary to attract staff from minority groups, such as making local contacts and actively advertising at community events. More generally, it is important for prison systems to raise public awareness of the nature of prison work and that it is a social service of great importance.
Procedures for selection
Recruitment for prisons may be conducted by a national prison authority (enabling the maintenance of national standards) or locally by prison or prison cluster. The latter can often respond better to staffing needs but may have access to a more limited pool of candidates. It is not recommended that staff be involuntarily drafted to duty as prison officers from other agencies, as this can have a negative impact on motivation.
The selection process should be open and transparent, with clear criteria for assessment. It should be carried out by trained recruiters according to tested methods, which are regularly reviewed and adjusted (these may for example include role plays and psychometric tests). It should include testing the personal attributes of candidates including their integrity and humanity, and respect for diversity. A candidate’s readiness to pursue professional training should also be ascertained.
Diversity and non-discrimination in recruitment
Recruitment policies and procedures should seek to attract a more diverse range of applicants and ultimately to ensure diversity among the prison staff that is representative of the population in the country and the prison. This can have positive impact on communication and cooperation between staff and detainees within the prison. Efforts should be made to ensure that as a group, prison staff have the skills to communicate in the different languages spoken in the prison population.
There should be no discrimination in the recruitment of prison staff. It is recommendable for prisons to have a posted equality and non-discrimination policy which applies to recruitment. Women and persons from minority groups should be given the same opportunities as others to work in prisons.
In some contexts, there is a mistaken perception that women are unable to perform prison officer work to the same standard as men. This can lead to women being overlooked in recruitment or limited to non-custodial roles. However, it is recognised that women are able to carry out prison work just as well as men and mixed gender staffing can have a positive effect on the custodial ethos and bring a degree of normality to prison life.
Selection process to decide on initial placement
The recruitment process can be used to identify the appropriate placement of new staff, according to their skills, experience and interest. The experiences of new recruits in their initial placement are significant in shaping their views of their role, the prison and detainees. First placements should therefore be used constructively as an important step in the professional development of competent prison staff. In some contexts, new officers are deliberately placed in some of the most difficult roles or shifts in a prison, in order to socialise them in to the negative aspects of prison culture – this practice should be strictly avoided.
Legal standards (7) Print
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules)
1. The prison administration shall provide for the careful selection of every grade of the personnel, since it is on their integrity, humanity, professional capacity and personal suitability for the work that the proper administration of prisons depends.
2. The prison administration shall constantly seek to awaken and maintain in the minds both of the personnel and of the public the conviction that this work is a social service of great importance, and to this end all appropriate means of informing the public should be used.
3. To secure the foregoing ends, personnel shall be appointed on a full-time basis as professional prison staff and have civil service status with security of tenure subject only to good conduct, efficiency and physical fitness. Salaries shall be adequate to attract and retain suitable men and women; employment benefits and conditions of service shall be favourable in view of the exacting nature of the work.
All prison staff shall possess an adequate standard of education and shall be given the ability and means to carry out their duties in a professional manner.
Before entering on duty, all prison staff shall be provided with training tailored to their general and specific duties, which shall be reflective of contemporary evidence-based best practice in penal sciences. Only those candidates who successfully pass the theoretical and practical tests at the end of such training shall be allowed to enter the prison service.
1. So far as possible, prison staff shall include a sufficient number of specialists such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, teachers and trade instructors.
2. The services of social workers, teachers and trade instructors shall be secured on a permanent basis, without thereby excluding part-time or voluntary workers.
1. The prison director should be adequately qualified for his or her task by character, administrative ability, suitable training and experience.
2. The prison director shall devote his or her entire working time to official duties and shall not be appointed on a part-time basis. He or she shall reside on the premises of the prison or in its immediate vicinity.
3. When two or more prisons are under the authority of one director, he or she shall visit each of them at frequent intervals. A responsible resident official shall be in charge of each of these prisons.
1. The prison director, his or her deputy, and the majority of other prison staff shall be able to speak the language of the greatest number of prisoners, or a language understood by the greatest number of them.
2. Whenever necessary, the services of a competent interpreter shall be used.
United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty
Personnel should be qualified and include a sufficient number of specialists such as educators, vocational instructors, counsellors, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists. These and other specialist staff should normally be employed on a permanent basis. This should not preclude part-time or volunteer workers when the level of support and training they can provide is appropriate and beneficial. Detention facilities should make use of all remedial, educational, moral, spiritual, and other resources and forms of assistance that are appropriate and available in the community, according to the individual needs and problems of detained juveniles.
The administration should provide for the careful selection and recruitment of every grade and type of personnel, since the proper management of detention facilities depends on their integrity, humanity, ability and professional capacity to deal with juveniles, as well as personal suitability for the work.
To secure the foregoing ends, personnel should be appointed as professional officers with adequate remuneration to attract and retain suitable women and men. The personnel of juvenile detention facilities should be continually encouraged to fulfil their duties and obligations in a humane, committed, professional, fair and efficient manner, to conduct themselves at all times in such a way as to deserve and gain the respect of the juveniles, and to provide juveniles with a positive role model and perspective.
The administration should introduce forms of organization and management that facilitate communications between different categories of staff in each detention facility so as to enhance co-operation between the various services engaged in the care of juveniles, as well as between staff and the administration, with a view to ensuring that staff directly in contact with juveniles are able to function in conditions favourable to the efficientfulfilment of their duties.
The personnel should receive such training as will enable them to carry out their responsibilities effectively, in particular training in child psychology, child welfare and international standards and norms of human rights and the rights of the child, including the present rules. The personnel should maintain and improve their knowledge and professional capacity by attending courses of in-service training, to be organized at suitable intervals throughout their career.
The director of a facility should be adequately qualified for his or her task, with administrative ability and suitable training and experience, and should carry out his or her duties on a full-time basis.
United Nations Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Report to the General Assembly, 30 July 2015, A/70/212
Human rights standards also affirm that members of minorities must have equal access to training and service as law enforcement officials, including within the police, prosecution, judiciary and legal profession.
European Prison Rules
Staff shall be carefully selected, properly trained, both at the outset and on a continuing basis, paid as professional workers and have a status that civil society can respect.
When selecting new staff the prison authorities shall place great emphasis on the need for integrity, humanity, professional capacity and personal suitability for the complex work that they will be required to do.
Professional prison staff shall normally be appointed on a permanent basis and have public service status with security of employment, subject only to good conduct, efficiency, good physical and mental health and an adequate standard of education.
Salaries shall be adequate to attract and retain suitable staff.
Benefits and conditions of employment shall reflect the exacting nature of the work as part of a law enforcement agency.
Whenever it is necessary to employ part-time staff, these criteria shall apply to them as far as that is appropriate.
Principles and Best Practices of the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty in the Americas
Principle XX – Personnel of places of deprivation of liberty
The personnel responsible for the direction, custody, care, transfer, discipline and surveillance of persons deprived of liberty shall at all time and under any circumstances respect the human rights of persons deprived of liberty and of their families.
The personnel shall be carefully selected, taking into account their ethical and moral integrity, sensitivity to cultural diversity and to gender issues, professional capacity, personal suitability for the work, and sense of responsibility.
The personnel shall comprise suitable employees and officers, of both sexes, preferably with civil service and civilian status. As a general rule, members of the Police or Armed forces shall be prohibited from exercising direct custody of persons deprived of liberty, unless it is a police or military institution.
Principle XX – Personnel of places of deprivation of liberty
Places of deprivation of liberty for women, or the women’s sections in mixed institutions shall be under the direction of female personnel. The custody and surveillance of women deprived of liberty shall be performed exclusively by female personnel, although staff with other capacities or skills, such as doctors, teachers, or administrative personnel may be male.
Principle XX – Personnel of places of deprivation of liberty
Sufficient and qualified personnel shall be available to ensure security, surveillance, and custody, as well as to attend to medical, psychological, educational, labor, and other needs.
The personnel of places of deprivation of liberty shall be provided with the necessary resources and equipment so as to allow them to perform their duties in suitable conditions, including fair and equitable remuneration, decent living conditions, and appropriate basic services.
Extract from the 10th General Report on the CPT's activities [CPT/Inf (2000) 13]
As the CPT stressed in its 9th General Report, mixed gender staffing is an important safeguard against ill-treatment in places of detention. The presence of male and female staff can have a beneficial effect in terms of both the custodial ethos and in fostering a degree of normality in a place of detention.
Mixed gender staffing also allows for appropriate staff deployment when carrying out gender sensitive tasks, such as searches. In this context, the CPT wishes again to emphasise that persons deprived of their liberty should only be searched by staff of the same gender and that any search which requires an inmate to undress should be conducted out of the sight of custodial staff of the opposite gender.
24th General Report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
The custody and care of juveniles deprived of their liberty is a particularly challenging task. It should be taken into account that many of them have sufered physical, sexual or psychological violence. The staf called upon to fulfl this task should be carefully selected for their personal maturity, professional integrity and ability to cope with the challenges of working with and safeguarding the welfare of this age group. More particularly, steps should be taken to ensure the regular presence of specialised educators, psychologists and social workers in detention centres for juveniles. They should be committed to working with young people, and be capable of guiding and motivating them. With a view to avoiding a prison-like environment, staff working in direct contact with juveniles should as a rule not carry batons, incapacitating sprays or other means of restraint. The practice observed by the CPT in a number of juvenile detention centres of custodial staf not wearing a prison uniform is to be encouraged. Mixed-sex stafng can have a benefcial efect in terms of the custodial ethos and foster a more caring and relaxed atmosphere.
Questions for monitors (13) Print
What is the demographic of prison officers in the prison (age, educational and professional backgrounds, level of experience, ethnic backgrounds and gender mix)? How does this compare with the population/other comparable public services?
How are prison officers recruited? Are they employed through an application process?
Does the prison have an active and transparent recruitment policy for prison officers, with clear criteria and procedures of selection?
Are there job descriptions for prison officer vacancies? Do these specify selection criteria, including the necessary character, skills and education?
How is information on vacancies advertised and disseminated?
How many posts are there in the prison and how many are currently filled?
Is selection conducted by trained recruiters? What selection methods are used?
Do selection procedures seek to test the personal attributes of candidates including their integrity and humanity, and respect for diversity?
Does the prison promote women and people from minority groups to apply? Are there any indications of discrimination in recruitment?
Does the prison have a published equality and non-discrimination policy which applies to recruitment?
What minority groups are present in the country and among detainees? Are they similarly represented in the prison service?
Does the recruitment process take into consideration the languages spoken among the prison population?
How are initial placements allocated? What is the experience of prison officers in these initial placements?