A DORSET prison officer is being featured on the July/August edition of Boots magazine in recognition of her contribution to the frontline during the pandemic.

Karen Jenkins, 46, has been a prison officer at HMP Guys Marsh in Shaftesbury for three years and is responsible for keeping prisoners safe.

Over the last three months, both prisoners and staff have had to adapt to new regimes to adhere to social distancing guidelines and keep themselves and each other safe. When she heard she was going to be on the cover of Boots magazine, Karen was surprised.

She said: "It's a little strange and surreal if I am honest! I suppose I am just used to doing my job which I do all the time and to be recognised for the important job that prison officers do was really lovely and humbling.

"It made my colleagues and I realise that we are important and we are not forgotten which we do sometimes feel because we are behind high walls and not seen by the public so it was lovely to have that recognition.

"At first I thought it was just going to be a little bit of an article with a tiny picture and when I found out it was the cover I thought 'oh my goodness I'm going to be a cover girl!'"

Like many jobs, the prison service has had to adapt the way it works to fit to Government guidelines. Prisoners have not been able to socialise as much as they are used to and classes and activities have been modified.

Karen said: "The regime has had to change for everyone. We have had to create a lot of awareness around the virus and we've all been learning as we go along.

"The work for the prisoners has changed so instead of doing things like fixing televisions and kettles and various other electrical things they use in the estate, they are sewing bags for NHS workers to keep their scrubs in.

"It has been very different for them but they have adapted pretty well."

The main difference for a lot of prisoners is being unable to have family members visit them. Visitors have been banned from prisons since the lockdown began on March 23, but HMP Guys Marsh has come up with a system to allow prisoners to continue communication with loved ones.

Karen said: "For a prisoner, they are trying to keep their family ties open. A visit is an essential part of their journey to rehabilitation and a massive part of keeping them stable in prison and they have really struggled with that.

"We have set up an online system where a family can book in a visit from home and prisoners can have a video call with them which has been great. I would like to think that will continue once visits start up again."