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Prisoners: Employment

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice if he will meet representatives of the Howard League for Penal Reform to discuss the findings of the independent evaluation carried out by Professor Penny Green at King's College London into its social enterprise employing prisoners in HMP Coldingley. (236801)

I visited the Barbed design studio at HMP Coldingley and met Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, to discuss its social enterprise venture in July 2007. I am willing to meet the Howard League again to discuss Professor Green's evaluation report.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what assessment his Department has made of the possible benefits of meaningful employment for long term prisoners, including the impact of any taxation contributions; what consideration was made of the Howard League for Penal Reform's social enterprise in HMP Coldingley in forming that assessment; and what assessment he has made of the consequences of the closure of the social enterprise at HMP Coldingley. (236803)

The social benefits of providing employment in prisons, such as providing offenders with valuable skills to aid their resettlement back into the community and to reduce re-offending, have long been recognised.

Significant numbers of prisoners are meaningfully employed on a daily basis in a range of activities. This includes essential work producing a variety of goods for internal consumption and providing in-house services such as catering, cleaning and laundries. This reduces the cost of imprisonment and has an element of restitution while producing real work opportunities. Employment in prison also acts as an aid to good order and control and aids resettlement through skills and qualifications.

Increasingly, prisoners are employed to carry out work in partnership with other organisations and there are a number of employer partnerships with private industry that not only provide real employment and training but also employment on release. The Government are keen to grow these initiatives so that increasing number of prisoners and society can benefit. In addition to those working in individual prisons and probation areas there is also an existing corporate alliance with employers from the private, public and third sectors which informs strategy and delivery.

Ultimately it was the Howard League for Penal Reform that has taken the decision to close the small design studio workshop at HM Prison Coldingley. The Prison Service has been supportive of this project from the outset. Furthermore, the Service has been willing to give further consideration to any proposals to expand the same business model into other establishments. Despite widespread publicity, support from the Prison Service no other private or voluntary sector has shown interest in replicating all aspects of the Howard League work.

Although the Howard League closure is to be regretted the consequences on the number of prisoners employed is limited as the workshop currently employs some three prisoners and has never employed more than six prisoners at any one time. Workshop expansion at Coldingley is already planned and this will become operational early in 2009.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what hours were being worked each day by prisoners at the Howard League for Penal Reform social enterprise in HMP Coldingley in its (a) first month and (b) last month of operation; and what assessment he has made of the effect of the reduction of working hours at the prison. (236804)

In October 2005, six prisoners were employed in the “Barbed” design studio workshop at HM Prison Coldingley, which was jointly established by the Howard League for Penal Reform and HM Prison Service. The working week was as follows:

Monday to Thursday:

8.15 am to 11:45 am

1.45 pm to 4.45 pm

Friday:

8.15 am to 11.45 am

These times include 15 minute movement time to work am and pm.

In October 2008, three prisoners were employed in the workshop. The working week was as follows:

Monday to Thursday:

8.45 am to 11.45 am

1.45pm to 4.45 pm

Friday:

8.30 am to 11.45 am

These times include 15 minute movement time to work am and pm.