'Poor training and vetting procedures behind rise in prison affairs'

Why are so many female prison guards having affairs with inmates? Experts say poor training and vetting procedures are behind rise in illicit relationships as 18 women are dismissed at just ONE jail alone

  • Dozens of female prison officers have hit headlines over relations with inmates
  • Prison boss said bad training and vetting to blame, as women guards rise by 27%

Questions are being asked about training and recruitment of female prison guards after a spate of officers have been sacked and in some cases jailed for having affairs with inmates.

Last week saw prison guard Joanne Hunter, 28, jailed for three years after having a relationship with an inmate and smuggling him cannabis at HMP Forest Bank in Salford.

Elsewhere, HMP Berwyn in north Wales is in a staffing crisis after dismissing no fewer than 18 female members of staff for inappropriate relationships with prisoners.

Mark Fairhurst, general secretary of the Prison Officer’s Association (POA) cited poor training and vetting procedures as being responsible for many officers succumbing to corruption.

Mr Fairhurst said the number of female prison guards had risen 27 per cent over five years in line with diversity requirements, but staff were often recruited centrally with interviews conducted over Zoom.

Ayshea Gunn, 27, exchanged more than 1,200 phone calls — including explicit video calls and smuggled her underwear into her lover Khuram Razaq’s cell

HMP Berwyn – Britain’s largest male jail in Wrexham, north Wales, where 18 female guards have been fired or resigned for having illicit affairs with inmates

He told LBC: ‘It’s inexperienced staff being conditioned by very experienced prisoners.

‘The initial training they receive on corruption prevention is not fit for purpose combined with a low wage and high cost of living. It is tempting for people. We need to toughen up recruitment procedures.’

He said also that the number of inexperienced prison officers in frontline roles had gone up due to staff shortages. 


Officers who lose everything by having relationships with inmates do so because of ‘a mix of emotional vulnerability and the thrill of the forbidden’, experts have said.

Looking over the cases, forensic scientist Dr Carole Lieberman told the Mail: ‘Female prison officers are sitting ducks for male inmates. 

‘This is because women who become prison officers have not typically had a bustling social life. Many are not comfortable wearing sexy clothes or chatting up men in the usual outside arenas, from pubs to parties.

‘In prison, these women have a literally captive audience and less female competition than in the outside world. 

‘Some women are attracted by these perks and choose to work in this environment on purposes, whereas it is an unconscious motivation for others.

‘A lot of women are attracted to bad boys, the heart breakers. When they find themselves mixing with the same bad boys day after day, most of whom are charming sociopaths, their loneliness gets the better of them.’

Psychologist Bayu Prihandito told Mail Online: ‘It’s evident that some of these relationships come from a place of vulnerability. 

‘Some of these guards might not fully grasp the consequences or believe they can manage the situation without getting caught.

‘Inmates can identify staff members who seem more susceptible to manipulation, such as those who appear to be naïve, vulnerable, or seeking validation. 

‘By building a relationship, they might aim for certain privileges, reduced punishments, or even to obtain contraband items. It’s a power play.’

Counsellor Matthew Schubert agreed that power balance often acted as an ‘aphrodisiac’, adding: ‘The vast majority of prison guards who have been jailed for affairs with prisoners are young and inexperienced in their new job.

‘There is a power difference in the prison system between the guards and inmates. The female guards hold status over their charges and this can be an aphrodisiac for sexual desire.’

Another officer, Emily Watson, 26, had intercourse with her jailbird lover and performed a sex act on him on two other occasions – one on Christmas day

In one of the most extraordinary cases, HMP Berwyn – Britain’s largest male jail set on a sprawling industrial estate in Wrexham, north Wales – has seen 18 female officers quit or dismissed over inappropriate relations with inmates.

In a new Independent Monitoring Boards report, staffing issues were highlighted as the ‘biggest destabilising factor’ at the jail, which is home to more than 2,100 medium-risk category ‘B’ and ‘C’ prisoners.

While the 18 cases have taken place since 2017, three female guards, Jennifer Gavan, 27, Ayshea Gunn, 27 and Emily Watson, 26, were all jailed in the last year for relationships with the inmates.

Watson arranged three trysts with her jailbird lover in his cell, having full intercourse with him during one meet up and performing a sex act on him on two other occasions – including on Christmas Day.

Gunn, made more than 1,200 phone calls – including explicit video calls – and smuggled a pair of underwear to her lover Khuram Razaq’s cell in her bra lining.

Both officers were jailed for 12 months in 2019 for misconduct in public office.

In April 2020, Gavan, began a relationship with offender Alex Coxon. She gave him a phone where she had made sexually explicit videos.

In December of last year, she was jailed for eight months after pleading guilty to misconduct.  

The most recent report, according to The Sun, looked at the period between March 2022 and February this year.

It said the jail had been gradually ‘opening up’ since Covid adding that ‘progress has been adversely affected by shortages of operational staff and probation officers’.

It also said that many staff were inexperienced and that the Prison Service was actively recruiting more members.

Prison officer, Ayshea Gunn with inmate Khuram Razaq in a cell at the prison 

Khuram Razaq, then 29, had previously been jailed for armed robbery and in 2015 had been given a subsequent 12-year sentence for conspiracy to rob

As a response to the scandal, which was said to be a result of naïve, vulnerable and poorly educated staff, the prison oversaw 500 of its staff undertake corruption prevention training. 

Crime and security expert Chris Phillips told the Sun: ‘It beggars belief that so many female officers could be involved in relationships with inmates.

‘Where is the supervision of these officers?’

A spokesman for The Prison Officers Association told the paper: ‘At Berwyn, staff there for only three or four months are teaching new staff.

‘When you put young staff in and they mix with experienced prisoners — a lot of them wealthy — they are cultivating them.’

Joanne Hunter, 28, conducted the relationship with Connor Willis while working at HMP Forest Bank in Salford

Hunter – described as ‘naive’ and ‘vulnerable’ in court – believed Willis was ‘in love’ with her and agreed to smuggle packages, including cannabis, into prison for him 

Rachel Widdicombe, prosecuting, told the court how Hunter had agreed smuggle packages into the prison for Willis, one containing a juice carton and another coating a Red Bull can 

Joanne Hunter, 28, conducted a relationship with Connor Willis while working at HMP Forest Bank in Salford.

Hunter – described as ‘naive’ and ‘vulnerable’ in court – believed Willis was ‘in love’ with her and agreed to smuggle packages, including cannabis, into prison for him. She also sent him explicit photographs, which were later found on her phone.

READ MORE: Female prison officer, 23, who tipped off inmate about cell search when she fell in love with him after he messaged her on Instagram using illegal phone is jailed for 16 months

Manchester Crown Court heard how Hunter, who has a master’s degree in Childhood and Youth studies, began working at the prison in December 2018.

In December 2020, prison authorities received information that she was taking items inside and when she was interviewed by security managers she admitted having a relationship with Willis.

Hunter, from Bury, Greater Manchester, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit misconduct in public office and bringing or conveying cannabis into the prison at a hearing in March.

She pleaded not guilty to bringing or conveying an unauthorised mobile phone into the prison and that charge will was laid on file.

Richard Orme, defending, said that Hunter was a ‘naive, impressionable and vulnerable young woman’.

‘She was ripe for picking for an unscrupulous criminal to take advantage of her in her first job out of education,’ he said.

Aisha Golsby, 23, was working at HMP Portland in Dorset when she became involved with convict Deano Harrison

Mr Orme said Hunter had never had a serious relationship or boyfriend because ‘she was focused on her education’.

The judge, Recorder Paul Hodgkinson, jailed her for three years, saying her actions had ‘struck at the heart of criminal justice system’ and discipline and order at the prison had been ‘severely undermined’, putting the public, fellow prison officers and other inmates at risk.

Aisha Golsby, 23, was working at HMP Portland in Dorset when she became involved with convict Deano Harrison.

Harrison, who was 21 at the time and who has convictions for robbery and drug dealing, struck up the illicit relationship with glamourous Golsby by messaging her on Instagram with a phone illegally smuggled into jail. 

The besotted pair called and messaged each other, with the prisoner gushing he had ‘never felt love like it’ before while she wrote of how she trusted him with her heart.

While Golsby filed reports about other inmates having mobile phones, she failed to do so for Harrison because of her feelings for him – event tipping hi off about cell searches so he could hide his phone.

Besotted Golsby told her prison boyfriend that she trusted him with her whole heart – as she shielded him from cell searches by her colleagues 

The crooked prison officer has now been jailed for 16 months over her illicit affair with an inmate at HMP Portland. Golsby is pictured leaving Poole Magistrates’ Court 

His mobile was finally found and a search of it by Golsby’s shocked colleagues revealed the relationship between her and Harrison.

Golsby, from Weymouth, Dorset, was arrested and interviewed. She was suspended from her job before handing in her resignation two months later.

READ MORE: Prison custody officer, 25, ‘had five-month fling with prisoner’ before 25-year-old jail nurse ‘had behind-bars romance for three months with SAME jailbird’

She pleaded guilty to three counts of misconduct in a public office and was jailed at Bournemouth Crown Court.

Golsby started working at the HMP Portland in April 2020, when she was just 19-years-old. Harrison initially made contact with her through Instagram in August 2021.

In one message Harrison wrote to her: ‘I have not felt like this about anyone. I never thought it would get deep, I didn’t think I would get attached to you. I’ve never felt love for someone in such a small amount of time.’. 

The search of his phone showed Golsby sent Harrison a message in January 2022, when she was concerned someone had found out about them saying ‘I trusted you with my whole f***ing heart, I really hope what you are saying is true’.

There were also 11 phone calls logged between them from January 23 until the phone was discovered in a cell search on January 28. 

Harrison was moved to another prison but made several attempts to contact Golsby, with letters being intercepted by the prison service.

Golsby also sent him messages printed through Free Prints saying she was thinking of him in ‘affectionate terms’.

Hollie Gilbery, defending, told the court Golsby was a hardworking young woman with no previous convictions and very clear remorse ‘at her own stupidity’.

She sought to persuade judge Jonathan Fuller to give Golsby a suspended sentence. But in jailing her for 16 months he said misconduct in the prison service must be dealt with seriously by the courts.

Katie Loxton would spend a large portion of her time on the block where Higgs was housed, which raised the suspicions of a number of her colleagues

Katie Loxton was a serving prison custody officer at HMP Oakwood in Staffordshire when she first met Adam Higgs, 32.  

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that Loxton, 27, would spend a large portion of her time on the block where Higgs was housed, which raised the suspicions of a number of her colleagues. 

Further checks revealed that the pair had bypassed the prison’s security system and were communicating via a fake contact on Higgs’ telephone in his cell. Higgs made a total of 3,451 calls to the number and spoke with Loxton for more than 380 hours.

The calls cost him a total of £798 between July 7, 2021 and January 13, 2022. 

He also hid a mobile phone, which he then used to communicate with Loxton through social media. 

Adam Higgs made a total of 3,451 calls to the number and spoke with Loxton for more than 380 hours. The calls cost him a total of £798 between July 7, 2021 and January 13, 2022

Loxton was a serving prison custody officer at HMP Oakwood in Staffordshire when she first met Higgs

The court heard that the pair would often ‘perform sexual acts to each other’ while speaking on the phone. 

Loxton was arrested and her home searched on January 27 last year. During the search, three handwritten letters from Higgs were found inside. 

Higgs, of Grantham, Lincolnshire, was interviewed about the findings in prison in March 2022. The pair later admitted their offences in court. 

Loxton, of Sandwell, also admitted transmitting or causing the transmission of an image/sound by electronic means from within a prison.  

She was jailed for 12 months for misconduct in a public office. 

Elsewhere, prison nurse Elyse-May Hibbs, 25, met Harry Pullen, 25, at HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales while he was serving a five year sentence for drug offences. 

Hibbs was jailed for six months last year after she admitted misconduct in a public office following the discovery of her relationship with the ‘manipulative’ prisoner. 

The healthcare worker was discovered to have exchanged Instagram messages with Pullen and held ‘flirtatious’ calls over the phone. 

A disciplinary tribunal has now handed the medic a 12 month suspension order, meaning she will not be allowed to practice her profession until the order expires.

Prison nurse Elyse-May Hibbs, 25, (pictured) was jailed for entering a relationship with an inmate 

Harry Pullen, 25, (pictured) was jailed for five years in 2019 for flooding the streets of south Wales with cocaine and heroin 

READ MORE: Prison nurse, 25, is jailed for six months over ‘flirtatious’ calls and social media messages with ‘manipulative’ inmate

Hibbs claimed she was ‘pressurised’ into flirting with Pullen, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2019 for flooding the streets of South Wales with cocaine and heroin. 

She was one of two prison workers in HMP Parc accused of having relationships with Pullen, alongside prison officer Ruth Shmylo who is set to face trial this Septemebr. 

Hibbs attended a Nursing Midwifery Council disciplinary hearing following her release from jail to decide if she was fit to carrying on her career.

The hearing found that her ‘fitness to practise’ was impaired by her conviction, and she was handed a 12 months suspension order.

This means that she may practice nursing again once the 12 months order is lifted to carry on her career.

A court heard ‘manipulative’ Pullen came into contact with Hibbs while in custody at HMP Parc in Bridgend, South Wales.

Hibbs met the prisoner while giving him medical treatment in her jail before he contacted her on Instagram.

Prosecutor Matthew Cobbe said jail chiefs suspected the inmate was involved in an inappropriate relationship at the prison so transferred him to HMP Manchester.

But investigators then found Hibbs’ phone number on his approved calls list for inmates.

A disciplinary hearing barred Elyse-May Hibbs, 25, from practicing nursing for 12 months 

Mr Cobbe said: ‘Having been moved the inmate’s calls were monitored in HMP Manchester and it was quite plain the relationship with this defendant had was being nurtured by the inmate.

‘He contacted the defendant very many times and the bulk of it occurred when she was employed at HMP Parc.’

Mr Cobbe said the inmate used his mother and a friend to initiate contact with Hibbs after he searched for her on Instagram.

He said: ‘The calls between them were flirtatious. They talk about the prison, staff within the prison, he tells her that he loves her and she tells him he doesn’t know her to love her.

‘He tells her that he loves her and she tells him that she loves him too. The calls included references to the defendant’s existing partner and the inmate continuously suggested he would replace him and be in a relationship with her.’

Cardiff Crown Court heard the two swapped messages on Instagram by contacting each other through an account held by the inmate’s friend.

Hibbs quit her post at HMP Parc in July 2021 and was arrested a week later and admitted exchanging messages with the prisoner.

She told police she was scared to end the contact after he had previously threatened her.

Mr Cobbe said: ‘She explained that she and the inmate were never in a sexual relationship of any kind at all.

‘She accepted she should have reported the matter but that she got in too deep and couldn’t get out.’

Elyse-May Hibbs, 25, was jailed for six months after admitting misconduct in a public office 

Hibbs, of Newbridge, Gwent, admitted misconduct in a public office.

Adam Sharp, defending Hibbs, said the prisoner was known within the system to be a ‘particularly manipulative individual’.

He said: ‘She was young, impressionable, inexperienced and vulnerable to the malign influence of the inmate who sought to exploit her.’

Mr Sharp said Hibbs had ‘dedicated a significant part of her adult life’ to nursing but her conviction meant she would be banned from the profession.

Recorder of Cardiff Tracey Lloyd-Clarke, told Hibbs: ‘You knew what you were doing was wrong, you had training but nevertheless you went ahead and formed what was clearly an emotional relationship with this prisoner.

‘Although you were young you held a position of responsibility as a nurse and as a member of prison staff. You failed to report initial contact despite advice from a colleague and training you had had.

‘You engaged in flirtatious relationship initially, you failed to report the on-going contact and you failed to report that this inmate had upon him and in custody an unlawful device.’

Roxanne Walker, 34, was spotted by colleagues giggling with ‘manipulative’ prisoner Daniel Carter at £250m HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, North Wales. She later confessed to police: ‘I’ve made a mistake. I’ve fallen in love with Daniel Carter; it’s completely wrong.’ 

Walker, whose marriage has now broken down, received a nine months prison sentence, suspended for two years, in addition to 200 hours of unpaid work. 

It is the latest scandal at HMP Berwyn after prison staff Jennifer Gavan, 27, Ayshea Gunn, 27, and Emily Watson, 26, were all jailed within the last three years for sparking relationships with prisoners. 

A total of 18 guards have been fired for having illicit affairs at the prison, which opened in 2017 and has been dubbed ‘Britain’s cushiest jail’ for its unconventional approach to incarceration, which includes referring to cells as ‘rooms’. 

Roxanne Walker, 34, (pictured) will avoid prison after engaging in ‘sexually explicit’ chats with an inmate at  HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, North Wales

Walker admitted misconduct in a public office and cannabis possession.

In August 2022, Walker was spoken to in a support meeting – and she said she was ‘disappointed’ that her colleagues had reported her.

But the following month, Carter’s use of the prison’s phone system was investigated, and it emerged he’d added a female called ‘Leanna Baker’ to his list with whom he’d engaged in explicit conversations. It was in fact Walker.

Officers arrested Walker and searched her home, finding ‘personal use’ cannabis.

Andrew McInnes, defending, said: ‘In her words, she’d fallen in love with Daniel Carter; a prisoner who has, it seems, a history of conditioning behaviour towards staff members.

‘She realised she’d been manipulated. He told her what she wanted to hear. Her marriage was in difficulties and this was perhaps a vulnerable time in her life.’

In May, Judge Niclas Parry sentenced Walker to nine months – but was persuaded to suspend it for two years due to two ‘exceptional’ features in the case.

He ruled that her relationship had not resulted in any illegal items or assistance being given to the prisoner – and she is the single mother to a young dependent child.

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