A BICESTER man's career as a prison officer at HMP Bullingdon has come to an 'emotional' end.

Staff at the prison in Arncott, near Bicester, clapped Kevin Gidney out of the jail on his last day on Thursday, October 28 after 34 years of service.

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The 54-year-old said: "I was the oldest long-term full-time serving member of staff there. They gave me an absolutely fantastic send-off. They lined up and cheered and clapped me out of the prison. I was very emotional. Today was an end of an era.”

Kevin left school when he was 16 and served in the Royal Navy before joining the prison service in 1987. He added: "I've had a full and varied life."

He went through the gates of Bullingdon in 1992 when the prison first opened and before there were even any inmates.

Kevin, who received a long service medal after 20 years of working at the prison, said: "I actually started out as a prison service nurse, and I was there for 13 years in healthcare.

Bicester Advertiser: Bicester prison officer Kevin Gidney retires after 34 years at HMP Bullingdon.
Picture by Ed Nix

"Then healthcare was privatised so I got shunted out as a prison officer on discipline jobs. I met Charlie Bronson and Rolf Harris.

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"The job is not the most brilliant, but the staff are. You've got to have good people skills - that's the key. I get on with most people, but I've had my back watched by prisoners.

Bicester Advertiser: Kevin Gidney and his wife Mandi when he received his long service awardKevin Gidney and his wife Mandi when he received his long service award

Over his 34-year career, Kevin says conditions at the prison have changed ‘phenomenally’.

He added: "When I joined, they had buckets in cells and a radio. A PP9 battery was the prisoners’ weapon of choice back then. Now they’ve got TVs, PlayStations – the culture has completely changed.

“I think prison back when I joined was more like prison – a holding place for people who break the law. Now it’s about rehabilitation and whether that’s a good thing, I’d rather not comment. There’s not a lot of discipline.”

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Now that Kevin has more time on his hands he plans to finish his pilot training and move back up to Yorkshire with his wife Mandi in two years’ time.

Summing up his career he said: “The staff at Bullingdon are amazing. They were the reason I went to work. I went to work for the people – and some of those were the prisoners. That makes you a good prison officer - if you can build up a relationship.”

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