As a prison officer, you will play a vital role in making our state a safe place to live by keeping offenders secure and assisting in their rehabilitation. Click through the content below to learn more about this great job.
WHAT WE DO
Prison Officers are key contributors to the secure containment of offenders, which is a cornerstone of a safe and just Victoria. But our work doesn’t stop there. We also aim to help offenders gain enriched prospects and life skills while in custody, so that once released, they can make a constructive contribution to our shared lives.
That’s why case management is a fundamental component of the prison officer role at many prisons throughout the state. Through one-on-one consultations, officers invite offenders to analyse their decision making and adopt more positive behaviours, while also working to maintain important family and community connections.
“Prison officers do a lot more than just guard prisoners, they play a vital role in preventing reoffending and improving community safety.” – Ben Carroll, Minister for Corrections
"No two days are the same" is something of an old adage prison officers trot out when they're asked to describe their average day on the job. It's true, because your work is often so dependent on the actions of the prison population at the time. While you can't account for the pace of work on a given day, there are certain tasks and responsibilities that are always fundamentally important.
An idea of an 'average' day on the job
- Assisting in protecting the safety and security of prisoners, your teammates and visitors.
- Conducting regular patrols, searches and security-related activities aligned with our policies and procedures, which you will be trained in.
- Building professional relationships with your teammates to create a positive and enjoyable working environment.
- Making a positive influence on the prisoners you work with, helping them approach release from prison with confidence they can avoid re-offending.
SKILLS YOU'LL NEED
A great prison officer can come from anywhere, so we’re not looking for a particular degree or professional background. We're not concerned about which gender you identify as, or if you've worked in hospitality, sales, administration, construction or security; or been a labourer, a teacher or a retail assistant. We want prison officers with life experience – people who can find common ground with anyone and have positive interactions.
“We need respectful and non-judgemental officers. To have a good working relationship with someone, there has to be a level of respect. It's about being respectful to the prisoners, and usually that respect is returned. If you can have that working relationship together, it makes the job a lot easier.” – Rob, Prison Officer
MEET A PRISON OFFICER
Mel (Metropolitan Remand Centre)
Mel is a prison officer at Metropolitan Remand Centre with extensive experience at Marngoneet Correctional Centre. Although still in her 20s, she already possesses the perfect mix of maturity, resilience and communication skills needed to be a great officer.
After finishing a Forensic Science degree at Deakin University, Mel knew she wanted to get out of retail and start helping troubled people make behavioural changes. When she spotted an ad for the recruitment of a new squad of prison officers at Marngoneet, she thought it could be a great opportunity to better understand offender psychology. The chance to keep on her feet in an active job with a stack of different responsibilities also appealed.
Three years later, and Mel is still loving the job. She’s brimming with energy, intelligence and ambition and it was fascinating to learn about her experiences so far.
Hi Mel, thanks for catching up with us. What made you first want to apply to become a prison officer?
I was working at a shop, Cotton On, but I was looking for a career change. I saw the job ad for prison officers and thought it might be a good way to get started doing something similar to the field I'd studied in.
You have a qualification in Forensic Science, did you think about doing the extra study needed and going straight to becoming a clinician instead?
I did, but I’m an active person and I felt like I needed to get into a prison and work closely with the prisoner cohort. I wanted to understand what I would have to deal with if I ever had to work in forensics later – to learn about where offenders are coming from.
Do you think any of the skills you developed working in retail have helped you in this job?
Definitely. Retail is all about understanding what others’ needs are. With customers, you’re trying to change the way you speak to them based on who they are, because everyone has a different personality. And you need that as an officer – you need to be able to work effectively with anybody.
What are some other great traits a prison officer should have?
Being open-minded. Great communication skills, both talking and listening. Patience. Time management skills and resilience.
You also need to be able to adapt to your environment and always be thinking about of the safety and security of everyone here. Having natural instincts to be polite and respectful helps a lot as well. You’ll often find here if you give people respect, you'll get it back.
Is there anyone you wouldn’t recommend this job for?
People who make decisions based on their personal emotions and feelings in the moment. You’ve got to be focussed on the facts, using the intel we have. It’s good to have a strong gut feel about certain situations, but you need to keep a cool head.
What’s something that being a prison officer has taught you?
I think to reserve my judgement a bit more. You get to understand that many prisoners have had tough upbringings and come from disadvantaged families. You never know the full story about someone until you get to know them.
My understanding of cultural diversity has really expanded being in this job too. Working with both prisoners and other officers, you get to learn about so many different cultures – it’s fascinating. You learn to be aware and sensitive to differing customs and needs too.
You work with male prisoners. Do you feel your job is more difficult because you're a woman?
No, I feel the same as if I was a male officer, to be honest. I think maybe male prisoners might even treat us a little more lenient than male officers. I personally find it easy to work with male prisoners. I do a lot of role modelling – showing good manners and treating them fairly, and most of the time they do the same back.
We also do the same job as the male staff, with the exception of strip searches, which have to be done by male officers in male prisons.
You've spent most of your career at Marngoneet, but now you're at MRC. How's the transition been for you?
It’s been a major change going from a medium to a maximum security prison, in every way. There is even more of a focus on security issues and preventing conflict, because the men are vulnerable and unsettled and we are receiving new arrivals ever day. Medium security was a good starting point for me, though. I got to understand the prison environment, the flow, how to work with prisoners and other staff. At Marngoneet, I tended to see the same prisoners most days; but MRC is a remand prison, so the prisoners are constantly changing and I also move around many different posts.
What makes a really tough day at work?
Sometimes it can be very busy, with lots of action or paperwork and you leave mentally drained. There can be incidents that are pretty distressing. Still, everyone I know has gone home safe, every day.
One of the major reasons I applied was to help with offender rehabilitation. In reality, case work is great in some aspects, but it’s not always as rewarding as you may hope every time. It can be a struggle to get through to some prisoners. It’s just a fact that they may never be open to it, but you’ve got to keep trying.
On the flip side, one of the great things about the job is that we leave work at the gate. Once I walk out the door, it’s done. I take the uniform off and I don’t think about it until I get here again.
What are your favourite parts of the job?
The people I work with everyday. The leadership support is great – everyone is trying to help each other out. The food is good too, we often get to eat here. We organise social events ourselves as well. The camaraderie is brilliant.
Prison officers work on a roster system that covers days and nights across all of the week. Is there any room for flexibility with that if you’ve got things you need to do, even as a full-timer?
If you've got a lot going on, taking a casual role might be better, because you get more control over your shifts. But yes, the roster system actually helps with swapping shifts if you’ve got social or family stuff on. We have a lot of working mothers here too. We’ve got 500-plus staff just at this prison and everyone is pretty good about swapping shifts, they can help you out. Some folks would rather work weekdays, others weekends, so it’s a mutual benefit.
There are many directions your career can take once you’ve become a prison officer, have you taken on any new responsibilities?
I’ve transferred prisons, which was a sideways step and a new working environment, but I haven’t taken on a new role yet. I’ve seen other officers become recreational officers. You can go into offender management, if you want to focus on case work. I’ve seen others step up and become acting senior prison officers – where they’re able to delegate and sort out daily tasks for the team every day. Personally, I want to look into the more active side of things. The ERG (Emergency Response Group) would be good. Let's see what happens!
Johnny (Melbourne Assessment Prison)
Johnny landed in Melbourne nearly a decade ago for a one-off gig as a motivational speaker. He was scooped up from the airport by the daughter of the host who invited him to come out from South Africa. The car ride and the following week passed very quickly for Johnny and his new acquaintance. Johnny didn't catch his flight home.
They eventually married and Johnny convinced his new wife to move to South Africa. While she loved the landscape and the people, she missed a few Melbourne mod cons; things we probably take for granted, like Wi-Fi. We should all be grateful that their router never kicked into gear, though, because that helped bring them back to our shores, where Johnny would take up a job as a prison officer with the Department of Justice and Community Safety.
Through his work as a speaker, Johnny has travelled the world uplifting people by sharing the story of his childhood. He grew up in a disadvantaged area of Durban without parents and dreamed of getting out. He succeeded where few others did, by organising his own education and being open to connecting with people of all backgrounds. This ability has helped him flourish both in life and in dealing with prisoners.
Now Johnny is three years into the job, has landed a post as an acting senior, and is doing what he loves everyday – working with people. We chatted to him about his former lives and what he thinks you need to be a great officer.
Thanks for catching up with us, Johnny. Let's get straight down to it. Three years ago, what made you apply to become a prison officer?
I was a welder by trade and the industry was dying down in Australia, with a lot of the work going overseas. I needed to look for something else but knew I didn’t want to do just anything. I needed something I would have a passion for, otherwise what was the point of getting up in the morning? Because this job involved relating to people and working with people, and contributing to the community, I thought, this is the way to go for me.
I also saw in the job ad that the department was looking for someone with ‘life skills’. I felt like I had heaps of those. The things I’ve been through and seen make it easy for me to relate to and be able to work with complex people. I put the application in and the rest is history.
What skills do you think you developed as a welder that have come in handy as a prison officer?
Working as a welder, you experience the macho bravado mentality up-close. Everyone working in the shop thinks that they’re the better, bigger one. And you get the exact same behaviour in the prison environment – men trying to be tough, puffing out. Because I know how these actions play out, I’m able to tell the prisoners immediately about my own professional background. I don’t have to give away many details for them to work out that I didn’t just fall out of the sky and become a prison officer. That gets them thinking, ‘This guy knows what he’s on about, so let’s be real with him’.
Are there any other skills or traits you think are essential to being a great prison officer?
Yeah, people skills. You can’t always teach that. There’s no textbook that you can learn that from to the level you need it here. It’s got to be natural. It just comes from life experience. The ability to look at a person and predict how they’re going to act next. To know when someone is on edge.
It’s important because we can see such volatile behaviour. Some men might appear cool and calm on the outside to some people, but inside they're like a volcano. You’ve got to have the skills to be able to read a person within a few seconds. Because if you can decipher that, then maybe you can put measures in place before it goes bad.
What signals are you looking for?
From my upbringing, I’ve learned there are typical tell-tale signs. You’re looking for the shoulders dropping, the hands struggling, the lips quivering and the rising tone of voice. We're taught about this kind of escalation in training too, so you can refine your skills.
Just today, I was dealing with a guy in a urinalysis test. He was agitated, saying, ‘Why are you targeting me, why do I always have to do this?’ He was hyped up, but because I’ve got this background where I’m familiar with men who have been distressed and angry (from my motivational work), I’m able to keep calm in that situation.
I know that anger often comes from ignorance, because a person can’t understand something. So, I talked to him as a person, I didn’t talk down to him. I explained it’s just a procedure in this place, and he’s got to do it, everyone’s got to do it. I pointed out that to get my job as a prison officer, I had to do the test and we still have to, so it’s not like we’re bullying him, everybody has to do it. As a welder, we had to do it quite routinely too. When we heard that, he started to understand and was compliant. You’ve got to choose when it’s wise to engage and know how to based on the individual prisoner you’re working with.
I hear there’s a great variety of the type of work in this role. Over a period of a month, what are some of the tasks and projects you might work on?
I’m in the higher duties pool. I was challenged to be a senior prison officer overseeing three of the units. It’s a simple enough job from a practical point of view, but the challenge is you’ve got to have staff respect you. I might be a senior in a unit, but I could be working with a normal prison officer who has been in the job for 20 years. He’s pretty much guaranteed to have way more knowledge of the job than I have. But if he’s able to respect me as a senior, then he can support me and even help develop me to be a better senior. I’ve been fortunate to have staff around me who support me in that way. They give me a heads up on issues so I’m able to walk into the unit and be confident.
Are you liking acting as a senior?
Yeah, it’s a good balance. You’re in between management and the guys on the ground. It’s cool, I don’t mind it at all. You’re into the bureaucracy part of the job, where you’re just talking about policies; then you’re also relating with the staff on the practical side of the day-to-day prisoner behaviour.
What do you like about the salary structuring and conditions? Why does it work for you?
For me, at the moment my roster works out quite fine. I don’t chop and change much. I’ve basically worked my life around it. The penalty rates are good – the more you put in, the more you get out of it. You still get paid for your public holidays too, you get days in lieu if you work them. I love that.
That's pretty standard for full-time work, Johnny!
(Laughs) Yeah, coming from South Africa, that was unique for me. When I started working here and got those holidays I thought, ‘Gee whiz, this is great. Where has this been my whole life?’
Well we're glad you found it with us. Just finally, what are the best parts of being a prison officer for you?
The unpredictability of the job every day. You could try and arrive in the morning and choreograph your day but it never turns out that way. There’s always some curveball coming your way, and that just keeps the day rolling. You’re always challenged to use a new skill. One moment you’ll be negotiating and making compromises, next you’ll have to be sterner. There are so many different people and situations to adapt to. I love that.
The Department of Justice and Community Safety is responsible for running Victoria's 11 public prisons and one transition centre. You can learn a little about each facility below.
Address: 1140 Bacchus Marsh Road, Lara VIC 3212
Security level: Maximum
Barwon Prison (Barwon) is a maximum-security men’s prison based in the Barwon Prison Precinct.
Barwon accommodates both convicted offenders and some remand prisoners in 478 beds across 10 accommodation units. Each unit houses a specific cohort of prisoner, from ‘general’ prisoners who are permitted to interact with each other and undertake paid work within the facility, through to high risk and protection prisoners who may spend a larger portion of their day inside cells.
Beechworth Correctional Centre
Address: 494 Flat Rock Road, Beechworth VIC 3747
Security level: Minimum
Beechworth Correctional Centre (Beechworth) is a minimum-security men’s prison based in North East Victoria.
It accommodates up to 210 prisoners across self-catered communal living units, as well as two-bed units and larger dormitories. Many prisoners are serving the latter portion of their sentence and developing skills essential to transitioning back into the community successfully.
Beechworth is renowned for its community engagement programs, which include partnerships with aged and disabled care organisations, sports clubs and the Healesville Sanctuary.
Dame Phyllis Frost Centre
Adddress: 101-201 Riding Boundary Road, Ravenhall VIC 3023
Security level: Maximum
Dame Phyllis Frost Centre (DFPC) is a women’s prison based in the western suburbs of Melbourne. It accommodates up to 604 prisoners, including offenders in minimum, medium and maximum-security units, as well as remand prisoners.
There are several industries that operate within the prison, where offenders work for a daily wage and develop vocational skills and qualifications that can aid them in finding work when released.
One unique element of DPFC is that some prisoners who are mothers are permitted to have their infants, and children aged up to five years, stay with them in shared living units. This arrangement is granted when it is most beneficial and safe to the child and mother.
Address: Murchison-Tatura Road, Murchison VIC 3610
Security level: Minimum
Dhurringile Prison (Dhurringile) is a minimum-security men’s prison based on a working farm in North East Victoria.
Specialising as a transition facility for prisoners completing their sentence, Dhurringile focusses on equipping men with personal and professional skills that give them the best chance of avoiding a cycle of reoffending.
Prisoners are kept busy on the farm, and can work in several industries, including metal fabrication, wooden products, horticulture, maintenance, gardening and more. There is also a fully operational commercial dairy staffed by prisoners that produces 7,000 litres of milk a day.
Up to 328 men can be accommodated at Dhurringile, across a mix of 2-bed units and larger shared housing, which simulates the living scenarios many prisoners will return to upon release.
Hopkins Correctional Centre
Address: Warrak Road, Ararat VIC 3377
Security level: Medium (protected prisoners)
Hopkins Correctional Centre (Hopkins) is a medium-security prison based just out of Ararat, in the Grampians region.
Hopkins has a capacity of 760 offenders and is a key part of the corrections system due to its specialisation in accommodating protection prisoners. This type of offender needs to be separated from the general prison population as the nature of their crime or reputation may make them more vulnerable to prisoner hostility.
Hopkins includes single, double and triple-bed cells, as well as cottage accommodation and a unit for aged and medically infirm prisoners. All prisoners capable of work are placed full-time in an industry area; such as wooden products, screen printing, metal fabrication, number plate manufacture, laundry and general maintenance.
Judy Lazarus Transition Centre
Address: 50 Adderley Street, West Melbourne VIC 3003
Security level: Minimum
History: The Judy Lazarus Transition Centre took its first prisoners in 2007. The Centre provides a supervised pathway back into society for selected prisoners nearing the end of their sentence. It is named after Judy Lazarus, a prominent advocate of prisoner resettlement and former CEO of the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.
Langi Kal Kal Prison
Address: Langi Kal Kal Road, Langi Kal Kal VIC 3352
Security level: Minimum
Langi Kal Kal Prison (Langi Kal Kal) is a minimum-security men’s prison located in Trawalla in the Grampians region.
Up to 428 prisoners can be housed in single rooms and shared cottage-style units in an open-plan prison that is fenced off from the public.
While similar to Hopkins in its capacity to accommodate protection prisoners, Langi Kal Kal’s prisoners typically have a lower propensity for violent behaviour. There are also many elderly offenders housed here.
Prisoners are required to work full-time, if they are physically capable, and there are many industries that operate on-site; including agriculture, horticulture, woodwork, cleaning services, kitchen and general maintenance. A renowned angus cattle stud is also operated on-site and hosts an annual auction.
Loddon Prison Precinct
Address: Matheson Street, Castlemaine VIC 3450
Security level: Medium
Loddon Prison (Loddon) is a medium-security men’s prison in Castlemaine.
Up to 468 prisoners can be housed within Loddon, and its annexe, Middleton. The landscaped grounds, modern buildings and wide range of programs and activities aim to emulate a general community setting, helping offenders to transition smoothly after completing their sentence.
There is varied accommodation available to suit the differing needs of prisoners – with self-contained communal units along with smaller cell-style rooms with two beds.
Loddon houses offenders of many kinds of crime but is renowned for specialising in programs aimed at addressing drug offences and family violence. The facility also runs several industries for prisoners to work and gain skills in, including horticulture, food processing and metal fabrication.
Marngoneet Correctional Centre
Address: 1170 Bacchus Marsh Road, Lara VIC 3212
Security level: Medium
Marngoneet Correctional Centre (Marngoneet) is a medium-security men’s prison located in Lara, in the Barwon South West region. It sits adjacent to Barwon Prison and the new Chisholm Road Prison project, which is currently under construction.
Marngoneet has capacity to house 859 men, including prisoners at its Karreenga annexe.
While it is a secure walled facility, modern buildings and large recreational fields give Marngoneet an open feel intended to provide a constructive environment for offenders to improve their lives within. Many programs are administered to help prisoners adopt more positive behaviours, including focused treatments for sex offenders at Karreenga.
Marngoneet also runs several commercial industries, with its much-loved bakery renowned for producing bread and pastries for many other prisons around the state.
Melbourne Assessment Prison
Address: 317-353 Spencer Street, West Melbourne VIC 3003
Security level: Maximum
Melbourne Assessment Prison (MAP) is a maximum-security men’s prison based in the Melbourne CBD.
It is the first point of contact for all alleged offenders coming into the corrections system in Victoria. Here, men who have been arrested on charges that potentially carry jail time if convicted are assessed before being bailed or placed on remand.
MAP is also a specialist mental health prison and features the Acute Assessment Unit – a 15-bed psychiatric facility.
Up to 305 prisoners can be held at this secure multi-level building, which is located near Southern Cross station. MAP is also perhaps the busiest prison in the state, with many prisoners arriving for assessment or being transported out to other facilities daily.
Metropolitan Remand Centre
Address: Middle Road, Ravenhall VIC 3023
Security level: Maximum security remand
Metropolitan Remand Centre (MRC) is a maximum-security men’s prison based in the Western Suburbs of Melbourne. Most prisoners here have been placed on remand, which means they’ve been accused of a crime and have not been granted bail, and they’re now waiting for their case to be heard in court.
Prisoners here typically stay until either being found innocent, and returned to the community; or being found guilty, at which point they’ll be transferred to another prison for a longer stay.
MRC can house up to 833 prisoners, mostly in single cells which sit inside larger buildings. These units their own dedicated program and resource facilities, interview rooms, clinics and recreational equipment and space.
Address: 9 Maldon-Shellbourne Road, Nuggetty VIC 3463
Security level: Minimum
Tarrengower Prison (Tarrengower) is a minimum-security women’s prison, located in the Loddon Mallee region.
Prisoners here typically sleep in their own rooms but share kitchen and living areas.
Tarrengower has a small capacity of just 72 beds and specialises in preparing offenders for a return to their community following the conclusion of their sentence.
There are many programs offered that are aimed at giving the women education and employment opportunities, which will help alleviate the conditions that can lead to reoffending.
There is an online application form you will need to fill in to apply to become a prison officer. You will find the form, and information about roles that we're currently recruiting for by looking at open opportunities above. Shortly after applying, our recruitment partners will call you to confirm any details and ask you a few more questions.
If you do not wish to apply for any of the roles that are currently vacant, but want to be considered for future positions in other regions, we suggest that you register an expression of interest here .
Situational Judgement Questionnaire
If you pass the initial application phase (from here on, the schedule you’re currently reading is based on candidate success at each stage), you'll be invited to complete a questionnaire that will test your suitability for the job. You will be presented with 25 to 30 scenarios and will get to choose one course of action from a list of multiple choices.
Remote video interview
You will receive a link and instructions on how to complete a video interview. You will be asked to respond to several capability questions. Make sure you have around 30 minutes set aside to do this.
You will then be asked to complete a personality assessment and two psychometric assessments. The first is an 'Abstract Reasoning Assessment'. This is a timed assessment, which looks at your learning agility. The second is a 'Verbal Reasoning Assessment'. This is a timed assessment, which looks at your verbal comprehension.
Attend an assessment centre
Our assessment centres are typically held with groups of applicants in-person at facilities near the prison you have applied for. With the current restrictions on social contact, this is not possible. Nevertheless, many of the exercises we run to test your suitability for the job will still remain in the new online format.
Our recruiters run a number of exercises and simulations to ensure that you possess the skills, conduct and characteristics required to become a prison officer. You will be measured individually against a predefined set of criteria, not against any other participant.
Applicants at assessment centres are typically asked to participate in a group activity, a role play and a written exercise. You will also complete a personality assessment and tests of reasoning ability and computer skills.
Your personal and professional references will then be checked. As the positions require high security clearance, you will also undergo a police check. You will need to let us know if you have ever been charged with or convicted of any offence. Some offences will automatically disqualify your application but others may not. Non-disclosure is treated seriously, though, so it's better to let us know up front about any incidents in your past. Everyone is assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Before being made an offer, we will also get in touch with you to arrange a health and physical assessment. Being a prison officer can be physically demanding, so we want to make sure that you can do it safely and without putting yourself or others at risk. Download the Health Assessment Fact Sheet here or watch a video of the test below.
Please note we have updated the requirement for Body Mass Index (BMI).
Your BMI should be between 18.5 and 35. If it is above 35, then the impact on your range of motion, cardiovascular fitness and waist to hip ratio will be measured. The ideal waist circumference measurement should be below:
Men – 100cm
Women – 88cm
Review your offer
The Department of Justice and Community Safety will make an employment offer to you at this point. Congratulations! If you accept, you should put in your notice with your current employer.
There's a lot of information to learn once you become a prison officer, so we give all of our newly recruited squad members a minimum of 41 days fully-paid pre-service training. It's full-time, Monday to Friday, and combines both theoretical and practical learning (including two weeks on the job).
Please note: Given the current measures that have been brought in to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, this recruitment process is likely to continue evolving.