Prison reformers respond to new education and employment strategy

By agency reporter
May 25, 2018

The Ministry of Justice has published an education and employment strategy for prisoners, which it said "sets out new measures to boost prisoners’ skills while in custody and improve their chances of securing work on release. This will help to cut the £15 billion annual cost of reoffending as ex-offenders in employment are up to nine percentage points less likely to commit further crime. At present, however, just 17 per cent of offenders are in P45 employment a year after release."

Commenting on the publication, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “This is a welcome strategy full to the brim with good intentions. It could make a big difference to the families and communities to which prisoners return on release.

“But almost none of those good intentions set a date for when they will be delivered, or how many people will benefit. We have heard many of these promises before.

“So the government must take this opportunity to show it means business. It must deliver a National Insurance holiday for employers, not just consider it. It must get thousands more prisoners into workplace release on temporary licence, not just consult about it. And it needs to say how many more prisoners will end up with a job when all these good intentions have turned into reality.”

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This is a welcome announcement by the Secretary of State for Justice, but the success of this policy will depend upon the government’s ability to solve a long-running problem – prisons’ failure to get people out of their cells and into education and training.

“Unless prisons can function like real-life places of work – ensuring that people are up and out in the morning, having had a shower and some breakfast, to arrive on time to do a full day’s work for a full day’s pay and pay tax – then what will happen is what has always happened: people might be able to get jobs on release, but they will struggle to keep them.

“The Howard League is the only body in the world ever to have run a proper business in a prison. It gave prisoners the opportunity to do an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay and enabled them to pay tax, save and support their families. They made voluntary contributions to victims’ charities.

“As a centre of excellence for real work in prison, we have offered to help the government to realise more prisoners’ potential. The offer is still there.”

* The Education and Employment Strategy 2018 policy paper is available here

* Prison Reform Trust http://www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/

* Howard League for Penal Reform https://howardleague.org/

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