As designated places of confinement and distinctive sites of punishment, prisons occupy an exceptional place within society. They are places where there is an obvious distinction between those who hold power and those who are subject to that power; between the governed and the governing; the captors and the captives; they are places where staff are out-numbered by those detained there (mostly against their will). Prisons are ‘special communities . . . volatile places, where values are always in tension, respect is always under threat, and compliance has to be constantly worked at’ (Liebling & Crewe, 2012, p. 896). They are places where relationships exist and matter deeply; constituting the ‘oil’ that smooths the flow of the prison day (Liebling, Price & Shefer, 2011b, p. 100). Prisons are places where the work of prison officers plays a crucial role.