Shropshire Star

Shropshire's National Sports Centre helping to change the lives of prisoners

Lilleshall National Sports Centre in Shropshire is helping to rehabilitate and change the lives of prisoners.

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Work to train physical education instructors from across the UK at the centre, is featuring in a brand-new podcast.

It will show what life is really like behind prison walls, and how staff across the country work tirelessly every day to protect the public and give prisoners a second chance to help break the cycle of crime and change lives.

Howard Masters, 52, who works at the national sports centre training instructions, joined the prison service 25 years ago as a prison officer. He will share the highs and lows of his vital work in ‘A prison’s guide to’ to keep prisoners and communities safe while reducing reoffending - giving prisoners the skills and support they need to live crime-free lives on the outside.

Howard said: "My first week in the prison on the wings was challenging. It was unlike anywhere I’d ever been before but I quickly got used to it. I worked on the wings for a year before moving into the PE department where you’re responsible for coaching the prisoners in various sports and the gym, as well training them to get their own qualifications too.

"Sport is so important in helping prisoners maintain good physical and mental health and hopefully giving them a better chance of not reoffending in the future."

“Now I work at the Prison Service College of Physical Education. My job involves training all the physical education instructors across the prison estate, so they have the right qualifications to support prisoners in their own establishments.

"It’s a great job where I get to mix my love of sport with my desire to make a difference. I’m really excited to be sharing my career with the public, I hope it will give them an insight into the incredible staff we have in the prison service and the great work they do every day.”

The four-part series podcast, made by Acast Creative and the Ministry of Justice. is narrated by actor Ben Bailey Smith and also features episodes with Ali Barker, 43, governor at HMP Bedford and Ishmael Hussain, 28, a trainee psychologist at HMP Frankland.

Ben Bailey Smith said: “It’s definitely the case that for most of us, our only experience of prison comes from what we see in the media. Hopefully, we’re going to be offering a more realistic portrayal – one that acknowledges the realities of how tough it can be behind prison walls, whilst also showing the public how hard the staff are working, as a unit, to help offenders turn their lives around.”

The prison service is currently hiring and says no qualifications are needed to become a prison officer or to join in a support staff role.

Training is available throughout a prison service career including for support staff, who can progress to become a prison officer. Officers can choose to progress into management, become a dog handler or train as a physical education instructor.

A prison officer salary starts at £28,880, and you have access to a Civil Service pension. HMPPS is currently hiring prison officers across England and Wales.

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