Health checks, yoga and music help prison staff keep on top of their wellbeing

Staff at a Leicestershire prison that houses prisoners serving life sentences have taken part in a wellbeing day to help them stay fit, healthy and happy in their jobs.
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Prison officers need to be capable of performing to a certain standard of fitness to ensure their safety, as well as the safety of prisoners and work colleagues. But they must also look after their mental health and general wellbeing to enable them to carry out their demanding roles.

Wellbeing days are held at HMP Gartree near Market Harborough twice a year as part of a training day for staff.

As well as physical and team exercises, staff were also able to have a massage or attend sessions with therapists to support them with challenging situations at work.

Prison officer Spencer Williams played his saxophone for work colleagues at HMP GartreePrison officer Spencer Williams played his saxophone for work colleagues at HMP Gartree
Prison officer Spencer Williams played his saxophone for work colleagues at HMP Gartree

People hub manager at HMP Gartree, Elspeth Ogier, says:

“They have a tough job, working on the wings. It’s a nice thing to do. The main part of it is the body MOT, looking at the health of our staff.

“They get their weight, BMI, blood pressure, lung function, glucose and cholesterol levels all checked. They are then advised by the physical education instructors on lifestyle changes.

“In the past we’ve picked up cases of high blood pressure and pre-diabetes. This early detection has health benefits for the individual but also helps us to reduce staff sickness and absence in the future.”

Prison officer Spencer Williams, 25, has been at HMP Gartree for three years. He’s been playing the saxophone since childhood and agreed to play his instrument for his colleagues as part of the wellbeing day.

He said: “My father pushed me to learn and I’m glad he did. When I’m not at work and I’m free, I play at events and weddings for people, which is a nice thing to do in my free time.

“People are quite surprised to hear I’m a prison officer in my day job. I suppose there’s no typical prison officer.

“I was happy to play a few tunes for people and it went alright. I mainly play R&B and I learned jazz, but I played songs people would recognise like ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael and ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams.

“It was enjoyable to play for them. I hope they enjoyed the sultry tones of my saxophone!”

You do not need qualifications to become a prison officer or to join in a support staff role.

Those who would like to take the first step towards a rewarding career can apply or find out more by visiting here.