Prisoners could do full - time jobs say Think Tank

Published on Monday, 13 June 2011 11:45
Posted by Scott Buckler

New research from leading think tank Policy Exchange calls for major reforms to drive an agenda of “real work” in prison. Ahead of new prison reform proposals to be published by the Ministry of Justice, the study – Inside Job: creating a market for real work in prison – says thousands of prisoners could be doing useful, profitable full-time jobs which go some way to paying back victims and taxpayers (June 13th)

The report recommends a whole new prison work regime based on full-time, paid employment that is run by private companies, profit-driven and commissioned by prison governors. Offenders would still go to prison – but regimes would do much more to offer proper work for inmates to make them more employable on release. Privileges – like in-cell TVs – should be reformed to focus on those who work and paid for out of wages. The result would be more prisoners working, with the most engaged and compliant prisoners getting privileges from work.
A new ‘Category W’ of prisoner – low security risk, drug free and literate – would be allowed to apply for a job and earn a ‘prisoner minimum wage’ of £3.10 an hour. This net wage could be split three ways between victims, resettlement, and a management charge – retained by the prison. A prisoner would ‘take home’ around 70p per hour and a resettlement savings pot for use on release could provide for costs like a rent deposit.

The study estimates that between 2,600 (4%) and 7,300 (11%) of the current sentenced adult male prison population are ready and available for real work in prison. After approximately two years working full-time, 40 hours a week, a working prisoner would have paid almost £1,100 in tax and NI, donated almost £2,500 to victims, contributed £2,500 towards the prison’s overheads, have built up a
resettlement fund of the same amount and received a net wage of the same, deposited in a personalised bank account.

In total, under this scenario of 5,000 prisoners working full-time, more than £100m would be generated for victims, resettlement, prisons and the exchequer over five years, including £30m for victims who currently receive no compensation from prisoners. Similar schemes operate in foreign countries such as France, where prisoners manufacture components for companies like Airbus.

The recommendations are supported by the vast majority of the public. An exclusive YouGov poll, published alongside the research, shows that: 85% of respondents thought that experiencing work in jail would make prisoners more employable on release 71% supported an expansion of work schemes using outside employers to enable more prisoners to work during their sentence 54% believed that prisoners should be paid something for prison employment with half of all respondents saying that part of the wage should be used to go towards the cost of their incarceration

Blair Gibbs, Head of Crime and Justice at Policy Exchange, said: “People expect prisoners to work in jail but under the current system most do not and prison work has been in decline for decades. We need a new regime of prison work with private companies hiring many more prisoners in full-time paid jobs.
“That way, we can make prisoners more employable to reduce reoffending, whilst they pay something back to society and victims who currently get nothing. Real prison work is a long overdue justice reform that the public support.”

Policy Exchange's work was warmly welcomed by a prison governor yesterday. Ray Duckworth, Director of Dovegate Therapeutic Prison in Staffordshire, said: "The research establishes a template for industrial prisons of the future. It is credible and achievable and will create opportunities for future public and private initiatives."
He added: "It highlights a need for the service to introduce 'employability' as a key factor in offender rehabilitation, not only key work skills but work experience in every sense of the word."


Source: Policy Exchange

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