Employers urged to help prisoners and offenders to work
Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has urged employers to hire more ex-offenders, as he outlined plans to help prisoners improve their job prospects.
Speaking ahead of the launch of a new scheme to provide training and work-related experience for prison inmates, Clarke also floated the idea of people being employed directly by private firms while in prison.
The training and experience scheme will be organised by ONE3ONE Solutions, which will take over work done by the existing Prison Industries Unit. The scheme will work with UK employers via each firm’s corporate social responsibility programme.
Leaders from 40 major employers will be invited to Downing Street later this month to discuss how they can contribute, as well as benefit from, the scheme.
Clarke will have to convince employers that their brand will not be damaged by taking on former criminals.
However, he said that businesses such as M&S and Virgin were already considering the plans.
The Justice Secretary said that eventually he would like to see businesses benefit directly from work done by people in prison.
Clarke argued: “If you just incarcerate people, if prison is just a warehouse in which you keep people and then release them without guidance into the world, it’s hardly surprising that half of them will be back within 12 months, having committed more crime.
“Many prisoners do not want to be part of that cycle. We need to facilitate the way in which people get back into a normal life and do not commit further crimes again.
“We also stress to the businessmen that you can take part in this and derive benefits as a business and you don’t have to compromise your ordinary standards of commercial judgement. I want eventually to see businesses manufacturing, providing services from prisons on a commercial basis.”
Business commentators have already expressed concern that using prison workers to manufacture goods or work for main stream businesses could create unfair competition for goods and jobs. The government and the CBI are looking at ways to prevent this.
One employer which already trains current prisoners and has a policy of hiring ex-offenders is shoe repair service Timpson. However, the employer says it does not take on sex offenders or criminals with untreated mental illnesses.
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