I saw the notice in the paper in early '07 and applied online via publicjobs.ie. I was called for psychometric testing which I managed to pass, and this was followed by the interview itself. This was both a regular panel-type and also a group interview.
After passing this I was sent for a medical and I began training shortly afterwards. This consisted of 9 weeks in the Training Centre in Portlaoise after which I was assigned to Cloverhill Prison.
Describe a typical day?
I suppose the only typical thing about my day is just how untypical it is! Not only are no two days the same but I could safely say that no two minutes are the same.
I report for Parade at 08.00am where I receive my detail for the day. I report to the Officer in charge of this detail where I'm given my post for the day. This could be anything from standing on a landing to working in the surgery, the gym, the school or the laundry.
We may also be detailed escort duty where we bring prisoners to Court, Hospital or prison-to-prison transfers.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
My main responsibility comes from the Mission Statement of the Irish Prison Service. My job is to ensure the Safe, Secure and Humane custody of all prisoners placed in my care.
What are the main challenges?
One of the main challenges is that every day is different. The situation can change at any minute and I must remain alert and ready to deal with any situation as and when they arise.
Also, it can be a challenge to leave my personal troubles at the gate and not to carry any worries or moods with me into the job.
The hours are a definite plus. I work 5 days one week, with 2 days off then 5 days off with 2 days on. Every second weekend is a long weekend so is ideal for spending time with family or for weekends away.
The variety of the job is another very good aspect, no two days are the same. From a financial point of view we are well taken care of. We work long hours in a demanding environment but are well paid to do so.
The promotional prospects are very good. All ranks within the service began on the landings so promotion up the ranks is very achievable.
What's not so cool?
It can be difficult sometimes dealing with prisoners who have been committed to prison for the first time. They can be embarrassed, angry, frustrated and scared all at the same time.
The shift work element is not for everyone I suppose but it's very much "Horses for Courses".
What particular skills do you bring to your workplace?
I think the most important skill someone could bring to this job would be common sense combined with good communication skills in order to diffuse situations, and a sense of humour. The ability to take a mental step-back before responding to an incident can be an important skill to learn as an extra second of analysis could completely alter how you would respond to a specific situation. Consistency in dealing with people and the ability to be firm but fair are also very important.