Going for gold: HMP Lewes prison staff member takes top spot at World Police and Fire Games
and live on Freeview channel 276
A 32-year-old who was born and raised in Lewes has cause to celebrate after taking home 4 medals, including gold and silver, from the 2023 World Police and Fire Games in Canada.
The Olympic-style competition sees more than 8,500 athletes, representing police officers, firefighters, and prison officers, from 50 different countries across the world compete in more than 60 unique sports.
Josh Burgess, who has worked as an Operational Support Grade (OSG) at HMP Lewes for 13 years, finished in first place in the cross-country event after running the 5k course in just 16 minutes – with his closest competitor finishing more than 35 seconds behind him.
“At the start line I was against a really tough field of approximately 200 competitors from 63 different countries across the globe – of course the pressure was on. After crossing that line in first place I felt a mixture of huge relief but I was also over the moon to know I was bringing home the gold. As soon as I received my medal it was straight to the pub to have a well-earned beer. My grandma, who lives in Saltdean, is my number one fan and she has all my 300+ medals on display at her house.
“All my colleagues are always incredibly supportive of my running. The deputy governor in particular has always taken great interest in my races. Coming from a sporting background himself, he has been incredibly supportive of me over the years offering me encouragement and is refreshingly laid-back for a man with such responsibility. I am truly very lucky to have such amazing supportive colleagues and a governor who really cares about how I get on.
“I train 8 times a week and working a lot of weekends and nights means it’s hard to find the time to fit it in. I just have to fit in my runs at whatever time I can around my prison shift pattern. Sometimes meaning I would run at 4am, but I love it. I’d say my athletics and my work in the prison almost go hand in hand, they both involve staying calm under pressure, keeping a level head and also being motivated and determined.”
OSGs play a key role in supporting the daily running of the prison, ensuring it operates smoothly. Day-to-day duties include carrying out security checks and searches, checking CCTV, reporting contraband items and welcoming prisoners’ family members or lawyers onto the premises.
Josh was inspired to join HMP Lewes by his dad, Peter Burgess, who also works there as an OSG.
While Josh is keen to downplay his achievements, Paul Mason, 43, Deputy Governor at HMP Lewes, say he deserved all the recognition he’s getting.
“Words cannot put into context just how amazing this is and how proud everyone at HMP Lewes is of Josh taking home the gold yet again. Josh was under pressure this year as he went into the race the favourite after taking home gold during the last games in China. Of course he didn’t disappoint – 5k in 16 minutes is pretty impressive.
“It’s also important to remember that Josh does all his training alongside his work as an OSG here at HMP Lewes, and sometimes that can involve long days or night shifts but he does it all with a smile on his face. I know the same strength, motivation, and pride he puts into his sports, he also puts into his work, and in return he has a whole team of colleagues cheering him on from the side lines.”
To become an Operational Support Grade (OSG) you need to be 18 years or over, but don’t require any previous experience. There are many benefits too including two weeks’ paid training and 25 days annual leave per year, access to a paid Level 2 Apprenticeship in Customer Service and a Civil Service pension.
Peter Masters, Chair of Lewes AC, the athletics club where Josh started out, added:
“As a club we are absolutely delighted with the successes that Josh has had competing for the prison service at the games. This win in Canada is yet another triumph in a line of fantastic achievements.
“Josh joined the club as a youngster and we like to think that our coaching and the support we have given, and continue to give, over the years has provided him with the bedrock for his awe-inspiring running successes. Well done Josh, the club is proud to have you as a member and as an inspiration to both current and future club members.”