A Prison Governor
Governor Caroline Johnston, 47, from Stirlingshire runs Scotland’s secondlargest prison, HMP Edinburgh
When I was younger, I wanted to be a maths teacher – I will never know why! After more than 20 years in the financial services sector, I decided, in 2008, I’d had enough. I did not enjoy my work and couldn’t see how what I was doing added any value or made a difference in society. I believe it is hugely important that you enjoy your work, otherwise, how can you be happy at home?
I stumbled across an advert with an opportunity to work in a fairly senior role with the Scottish Prison Service, and applied.
After a lengthy – and somewhat challenging – recruitment process, I was delighted to be told I had been successful. I love the variety the role brings and the fact that from the moment I step into the prison in the morning until the point at which I go home in the evening, I never stop. It’s an incredible role and one that brings many challenges.
I am responsible for the prison’s 400 staff and 900 prisoners.
I am happy at work and I love working with people so actually this is the perfect role for me! I don’t know how they perceive me, but I would hope they think I am firm but fair.
The most difficult part is the workload and making some very difficult and challenging decisions.
In times of stress, I have a couple of close friends who I speak with and my husband, of course. I also find that a good session in the gym before hitting the office helps!
I am definitely a morning person – I get up before 5am!
I reach the office at 6.30am as I perform better earlier in the morning and I like to have everything organised before the main staff arrive. Then I plan for the day ahead, emails, staff meetings and attending further meetings in the prison to discuss daily issues that arise from running a large, complex prison. The thing I love most about Scotland is… The landscape is amazing and we are so lucky to be surrounded in rich history. My favourite staycation destination is… Anywhere around Invernessshire. My favourite Scottish city is… Glasgow for the amazing shops, bars, restaurants and culture. I would take visitors to Scotland to… The Falkirk Wheel.
No two days in the prison are the same, so it can be unpredictable.
In an environment with nearly 900 prisoners in our care it’s inevitable that issues arise that we are unable to predict e.g. health/mental health issues, inter-prisoner violence, attempt to introduce illicit articles etc.
I don’t stop for lunch! In the afternoon, I attend scheduled meetings.
These can be about health and safety, risk management, addictions recovery, or partnership meetings with NHS or Social Work. I leave work at 4pm, when I can, but it’s not always possible, and arrive home in Larbert around 5pm. When I get home, I have dinner with my husband and youngest daughter, then walk the dog, attend the gym for my cardio fix, work on my laptop and watch TV with my family before going to bed around 10pm.
Professionally, I am most proud of attaining promotion to my current post, something I thought I would never achieve!
Outside of work, I am immensely proud of both my daughters: my eldest has just graduated in law and my youngest hopes to study art.
My friends and family admire what I do but wouldn’t want to do my job!
Others think I am joking when I tell them what I do. I regularly receive comments like, “You don’t look like a Governor” to which I reply: “What should a Governor look like then?!”
If I didn’t do this job, I would do voluntary work with disadvantaged children and families.
I am known for being passionate about what I do and genuinely interested in the people who work for me. I think, and hope, that people see me as being a strong leader but one that enjoys encouraging them to be the best they can be.
My best career advice? Work out what you want to achieve and go for it.
If you don’t succeed, keep going and you will eventually get what you want. If I could go back, I would have left the banking sector for the prison