The role of the prison officer in Scotland and Norway, and the extent to which they impact the lives of prisoners

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMasters by Research


Until recently, prison officers have tended to be neglected in research. While they are now receiving attention, little research exists in relation to prison officer training, particularly in Scotland. Scotland tend to look to Scandinavia when implementing change within the prison service and Norway is acclaimed to have one of the best training programmes in Europe. This research examines the role of the prison officer in Scotland and Norway, explores how initial training is constructed and what its purpose is, and investigates the extent to which officers feel this training enables them to impact the lives of prisoners.

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with first line managers in Scotland and ex-governors in Norway, and focus groups were held with residential officers in Scotland and prison officers in Norway. Nine interviews took place and four focus groups consisting of eleven participants in total. The participants’ experience ranged from less than one year to more than twenty years, and there were male and female contributors.

The analysis found that participants in Scotland feel that the training delivered is not fit for purpose and does not equip them to meet the aims of the SPS and help transform the lives of prisoners. The individuals felt that more training is required in mental health, substance misuse, criminology and interview techniques. The participants felt that a more blended learning approach, similar to the one taken in Norway, would be beneficial. The research found however that without changing the culture which exists within the prison establishments, any alteration in training would likely have little impact. The Norwegian participants felt that the two-year training regime they undertake is fit for purpose but could even be extended due to the amount of information they need to know to impact prisoners’ lives.

The SPS have been on a journey and for over two decades have voiced their ambition to professionalise the role of the prison officer. The SPS aspire to mirror Scandinavia to some extent and have a vision for social justice and rehabilitation. While progress has been made through the creation of the direct entry programme for residential officers in 2020, they still have a long journey to achieve their ambitions.
Date of AwardOct 2021
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorWilliam Graham (Supervisor) & Denise Martin (Supervisor)

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