If you’re looking for a new direction in your career, or are just in the early days of plotting your course through life, it’s well worth considering the criminal justice sector. The popular stereotypes of criminal justice workers are of prison guards and governors, who are either overstretched or cruel, but there’s far more to it than the simply locking people up. The exercise of authority is not the most important thing about the criminal justice system in the UK: there are a whole range of jobs supporting and playing into this huge system.

There are specialists to help convicted criminals gain new skills and qualifications to build a stable life outside the prison system, medical personnel working within prisons, not just dealing with injuries but ensuring chronic, ongoing conditions get treated and of course a veritable army of HR staff, accountants and procurement specialists prop up what you might call the offender facing side of the job.

The ideal of the prison system is that it should turn out people who, when they’ve served their time, do not want to reoffend and have the tools to build a life that allows them not to. Politics makes it something of a football, goals of prisons shifting on an axis between punishment and rehabilitation, revenge and reform, but in general the justice system employers people as social workers as much as ‘guards’.  There are plenty of youth offending jobs available, for example, the aim being to provide a point of continuity in the lives of people at risk of offending or on less severe sentences, to help make plans that build into a stable life and career away from crime and anti-social behaviour.

What this adds up to is a criminal justice system that might well differ a huge amount from how you’ve been thinking about it. It’s not just about locking people up: there is the opportunity for you to make a real difference to people’s lives.

If you’re more interested in the stability of a back office job, the criminal justice system, quite appropriately, offers security. As you’re working either directly for the government or for a private firm contracted in the long term for this civil work, it is in their interests to acquire and retain staff, to develop their competency and offer both competitive holiday – if only to recharge staff who are giving a lot – and a government backed pension to look forward to at the end of your career.

Criminal justice: it’s worth your consideration.