Fields of competence covered by the degree programme
Adherence to the law and ethical principles is the cornerstone of all prison and probation services. Key principles relating to the freedoms and rights of citizens must be observed in security and monitoring duties as well as in rehabilitation and guidance, and these are laid down in international human rights conventions that are binding on Finland as well as in our national Constitution.
The objective of legislation and conventions is to ensure the inviolability of human rights and the rights of individuals. The actions of officials in prison and probation services are regulated by a number of laws, decrees and recommendations that lay down their powers, rights and responsibilities. The central government’s shared values and the values of prison and probation services, the principles of good administration and obligations arising from civil service laws as well as the principles of prison and probation services must be observed in the work. The basic premise for working as a prison officer is knowing, accepting and adhering to fundamental human rights.
Embracing the principle of legality and understanding the ethical norms underlying legislation are an essential part of the professional competence of prison officers. This also promotes the balanced development of prison officers’ professional identity. A strong foundation of professional ethics enables prison officers to think critically and independently and gives them courage to face diversity.
The objective of the Imprisonment Act is to prevent crimes from being committed during incarceration and to increase prisoners’ chances of leading a lifestyle free of crime after their release. The starting point is an operating environment in which security threats among prisoners and between prisoners and staff have been minimised. Executing sentences of imprisonment as a goal-orientated and systematic process requires a stable and safe prison environment free of drugs and alcohol at all hours of the day. Examined broadly, the question also comes down to taking prisoners’ physical, psychological and social needs into account in daily work. Looking after prisoners also includes creating and fostering a positive atmosphere in each prison officer’s area of responsibility.
Ensuring security by means of monitoring requires the ability, developed through professional competence and experience, to foresee and analyse personal security risks. Using forcible measures requires approaching the boundaries of powers relating to the use of force under public law. The perspective is not limited to just the management of the use of force but also takes in broader know-how of managing crises, conflicts and special situations. Prison officers also need to be familiar with the powers of other officials and understand the legal basis for exercising those powers.
Forms of punishment served outside prisons, which in this context refer to supervised probation, monitoring sentences as well as electronic monitoring and release unit activities, bring a new dimension to the work of prison officers. Knowing the prisoners, being able to cooperate with other authorities, teamwork skills and monitoring outside the prison are especially important in these duties.
At the core of performing monitoring and security duties are knowledge of the prisoners and information gathering relating to different situations at work. Performing the duties also requires basic know-how of interaction, different aspects of monitoring and crime prevention. The aforementioned elements also feature in the implementation of remand imprisonment.
Guidance and advice duties include instructing prisoners in their work, studies, hobbies, daily interaction and other prison activities. The duties also include helping prisoners and advising them on practical matters both inside and outside the prison, teaching the prisoners to cope with life and social situations outside prison as well as supporting them in matters related to leave and preparing for their release. Prison officers must be able to cooperate with other parties in society who have relevance in terms of where prisoners are placed after their release.
Implementing sentence plans, effective contact work and multi-disciplinary teamwork make up a separate component of rehabilitation and guidance work. In addition to the day-to-day guidance of prisoners, prison officers contribute to activity programmes, prisoners’ work activities as well as substance abuse monitoring and also substance rehabilitation. In order to take part in the aforementioned activities, prison officers need to be familiar with the basics of sentence planning and knowledgeable about methods of effective contact work (such as motivational discussions). Prison officers also need to have sufficient basic know-how of the causes and consequences of crime, its effects on control and the associated mental health and substance abuse problems. Participating in the execution of new forms of punishment requires not just an understanding of regulations and the basic premises of implementation but also of the social conditions of convicts and the underlying factors.