Female governor of Norfolk prison says job is 'easier than being a mum'

Ali Barker, governor of HMP Wayland, has shared her experience of being in the role at a male prison

Ali Barker, governor of HMP Wayland, has shared her experience of being in the role at a male prison - Credit: Ministry of Justice

A female governor at a Norfolk prison has said she finds the role "easier than being a mum" as she shared her experiences of working behind bars.

Ali Barker, who runs HMP Wayland, hopes that by speaking out she can help challenge the common misconception that everyone working in a prison is "a big burly man".

The 43-year-old became governor of the jail in 2021 and has worked in the prison service for almost 22 years.

She said: "41pc of public sector staff are female, so you're certainly not walking into the all male environment you might expect.

"Some people are surprised that I'm a female governor at a male prison."

Ali Barker of HMP Wayland has worked in the prison service for almost 22 years.

Ali Barker of HMP Wayland has worked in the prison service for almost 22 years. - Credit: Ministry of Justice

While the job can be challenging, she said on the whole her experience has been very positive with staff and prisoners "generally respectful and polite".

The mother-of-two said: "Throughout my second pregnancy I governed a prison with many life-sentenced prisoners, without feeling at all at risk.

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"The prisoners were respectfully interested to witness my pregnancy and they even sent me congratulations cards.

"There are lots of similar skills required, but I generally find governing a prison easier than being a mum - you get more time off."

Ms Barker, who has a geography degree, joined the prison service as a fast-track graduate after seeking a career where she could help people.

Prison officers at HMP Wayland.

Prison officers at HMP Wayland. - Credit: Ministry of Justice

She said: "Wayland, in many ways, is its own community, hidden behind prison walls.

"It’s a training and resettlement prison, our job is to keep the prison and the wider community safe by rehabilitating prisoners, giving them the skills they need to live crime-free lives on the outside.

"Prison officers play an essential role in this by changing the lives of those in custody."

Officer Fitzpatrick, an Armed Forces veteran and prison officer at HMP Wayland

Officer Fitzpatrick, an Armed Forces veteran and prison officer at HMP Wayland - Credit: Ministry of Justice

The governor said this was why it was vital the service had officers from all background who can be positive role models for the prisoners and encourage them to get involved in training, employment and education.

She said: "We want people who have good communication and influencing skills, are vigilant, show care and understanding, and are keen to learn.

"The prison service is great because every day is different, presenting new challenges and opportunities."

Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service is hiring prison officers across England and Wales. For more information visit www.prisonandprobationjobs.gov.uk/prison-officer/about-hmp-wayland