U.K. PRISONERS WILL BE PUT TO WORK 40HRS A WEEK
Wednesday January 4,2012
By John Geoghegan
THOUSANDS more prisoners will be forced to work 40-hour weeks behind bars to put a stop to their “enforced idleness”, Ken Clarke has promised.
The Justice Secretary has just announced tough plans to double the number of inmates working full-time because they are currently a “wasted resource”.
Welding, plastering, motor mechanics and printing will be among the jobs they will have to do instead of spending their days lying in their cells watching TV.
About 10,000 prisoners work a full week at present but this will rise to 20,000 under the new scheme. That represents about one in four inmates in England and Wales.
Mr Clarke said: “The public wants a penal system that properly punishes offenders and protects the law-abiding citizen. Yet our prisons are not delivering as they should.
“The first thing we are doing is introducing a full working week to get offenders off their beds and into purposeful activity.
“Right now, prisoners are simply a wasted resource – thousands of hours of manpower sitting idle.”
Yet our prisons are not delivering as they should
Any further expansion of the scheme depends on space, because older prisons lack the room for suitable workplaces.
Mr Clarke said he wanted prisoners to develop a good work ethic during their time inside, adding: “I share public consternation that prisons cost £40,000 per place per year – almost the salary of two new nurses – yet for that price inmates are often just locked in a cell all day, kept quiet by access to a TV.
“This is completely unacceptable and contributes to the fact that nearly half of Her Majesty’s guests will have been reconvicted of further offences within a year of leaving jail – creating new victims each time the same old faces reappear.”
His announcement comes as results from an existing working prison show great promise. Every prisoner at HMP Featherstone in Wolverhampton – one of a number of jails tying out the idea – is in full-time employment and gets paid up to £17 a week.
Ninety per cent of their work is making things like beds and cabinets for the prison but the jail is trying to attract more private firms to get involved. Training in construction, literacy and mechanics is also given.
Once released, almost six in 10 of them – about 50 per cent higher than the national average – go on to find a job or take part in further training or education.
A spokesman said: “We want to turn our offenders into taxpayers on release so they are contributors to society and not a consumer.”
The Ministry of Justice said: “We want prisons in England and Wales to become places of meaningful work and training.”