Skip to main content

Prisoners (Work in Custody)

Volume 532: debated on Tuesday 13 September 2011

2. What recent progress he has made in making prisoners work while in custody; and if he will make a statement. (71307)

We have made clear our intention to make prisons places of work and industry. We are already making good progress towards longer prisoner working weeks at a number of prisons, including 13 early-adopter sites that are implementing regimes designed to facilitate increased working hours. We are continuing to develop a framework that will enable us to maximise this approach across the prison estate. To achieve this, we are looking at the experience of other countries and have established a business advisory group to help us to deliver prison industries that operate on a commercial basis so that much more work can be delivered at no cost to the taxpayer and can contribute to victims’ services while competing fairly in open markets.

Does my hon. Friend agree that having prisoners do real work will help not only by tackling the culture of idleness in prisons, but by giving prisoners valuable vocational skills that we all hope they will put to good use upon their release?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There will be substantial benefits from bringing this policy to scale, which I am optimistic we can do. There will be benefits to victims from the resources generated by the work that prisoners do; to the taxpayer from relieving the cost of the regime; and to the stability of the prison regime, as she mentioned. However, there will also be a substantial rehabilitative benefit to prisoners who will leave prison with a CV that includes skills training in the work in which they have been involved as well as experience in the work itself.

We all agree that prison industry is good for rehabilitation, but how many additional prison officers does the Minister think will be needed to supervise movement around the estate and to ensure that prison industries are secure and properly delivered?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. If we are to change prisons from being simply places of security and of warehousing people, where work is wedged in when possible, there will be additional costs to the prison regime. The businesses that go into prisons will have to generate the resources to support that.

In strongly welcoming my hon. Friend’s initiative, I urge him to consider the position of young people on remand. As successive prison inspectors have said, it cannot be right to have young people, even though they have not been sentenced, sitting about not required even to undertake any education let alone work.

Again, my hon. Friend is right. Remand prisoners pose a particular challenge, in the youth estate as well as the adult estate, because of the speed with which they tend to turn over in those institutions. That makes getting work for them more difficult, but there needs to be a proper focus on programmes for all people in custody following a proper assessment of their rehabilitative requirements.

The Minister will be aware that women in prison are often under-occupied. Will he tell us what special attention he is giving to creating working opportunities for women who are serving custodial sentences?

This agenda has to apply to women as well as to men. The sad fact is that, overall, too many of our prisoners are under-occupied, whether women or men, and the same attention must be paid to the women’s estate as to the men’s estate.