Prisoners' wages to help crime victims

Prison officer stands against iron bars The money raised through the new legislation will go to charity Victim Support

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The wages of 500 prisoners in England and Wales who work in communities are to be cut and used to support victims of crime, the Ministry of Justice says.

The 40% cut to net pay will raise up to £1m a year for victim support services.

The policing minister said the move, which comes into force on Monday, would make offenders take personal responsibility for their crimes.

Ministers also want to target the wages of prisoners working inside jails, through new legislation.

Under the Prisoners' Earnings Act, 40% of prisoners' wages over £20 per week after tax, National Insurance and any court-ordered or child support payments, will be deducted and given to Victim Support.

But the average wage of offenders working in prison is £10 a week, so many would not face the deduction.

Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: "For too long the financial burden of repairing the damage done by crime has fallen to the taxpayer alone.

"Making offenders pay financial reparation to victims will require them to take personal responsibility for their crimes and go some way towards making redress to victims through the funding of crucial support services."

The majority of work done by prisoners involves the packaging and assembly of food, electrical components and other products for outside companies.

Start Quote

The focus should be on getting prisoners into paid work in prison itself”

End Quote Frances Crook Howard League for Penal Reform

Some inmates are involved in prison laundry or printing workshops and there are also examples of charities running businesses within prisons, such as The Clink Restaurant at High Down in Surrey.

Prisoners eligible to work in the community would be those classified as "low risk" and nearing the end of their sentences in open prisons. Mostly male, they are said often to work for firms in the decorating and construction sectors.

Frances Crook, Howard League chief executive, suggested the deductions may now discourage inmates from working in the community before they are released.

"The proposals risk taking away the incentive for this group to work as they already pay tax and inevitably pay substantial travel costs to and from work, while the new bureaucracy will be burdensome for the businesses employing them on the outside," she said.

Ms Crook added: "We support the idea that prisoners are given the opportunity to work and pay taxes, contribute to the upkeep of their families and pay money to a fund for victims.

"But the focus should be on getting prisoners into paid work in prison itself, where the kind of deductions envisaged by the Prisoners Earnings Act could then be made."

'Make amends'

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyons said the government measure was a good idea in principle but it was important prisoners were not put off working altogether.

Javed Khan: "Victims want offenders to be effectively punished, and repair some of the harm.

She said: "It's always a problem if people leave prison with absolutely nothing. It's likely to cause further offending. And so a scheme like this has to be thought through carefully so that money is set aside for victims but that we also pay attention to resettlement."

Simon Davey, from Shropshire, who earned £200 a week working for a Christian charity supporting ex-offenders towards the end of a sentence for fraud, told the BBC that government policy was too "slanted" towards restitution.

"I support the idea that some of a prisoner's wage goes to Victim Support, but there must be a balance with the need to ensure that the prisoner is effectively rehabilitated," he said.

40-hour week

Victim Support chief executive Javed Khan, said the money would be used "to deliver real, practical support for victims and communities".

"Getting prisoners working and developing workplace skills should help them on the path to reform," he said.

"This will be very much welcomed by victims as they are united in wanting offenders to stop committing crimes."

Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey added: "Victims want criminals to be punished for their crimes and make amends for the harm they have caused.

"I believe the principle of criminals contributing to the costs of support for victims should be extended, and am hopeful that the government will now extend the victims' surcharge that judges and magistrates impose such that it applies to all offenders."

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told last year's Conservative Party conference that prisoners in England and Wales should work a 40-hour week.

He said the government was planning a major expansion of prison industries to get more inmates working.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    1. NO ONE earns £200 a week working in prison, am sure he means £20!
    2.If you want hardened criminals give them hard time inside
    3.If you want to create more victims take away any incentive for any one to re-habilate themselves.
    4.Lets make more people victims of theft by taking away from offenders any money when released.
    5.Its time for a radical change.
    6.No. I have not been inside

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Also if you're going to make them work to repay their victims why have them in prison at all. Many could stay at home under house arrest, work in the community or pursue whatever job they already had. Throw what's saved by reducing the the prison population at monitoring and managing their lives. Seems to me a better way to go about it with a better chance of rehabilitation too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    If these prisoners have personal wealth then its good to make them pay their victims. However, as we know most crime is as a direct result of poverty, these people have nothing and resort to crime out of desperation and despair, when they are imprisoned they are given a megre amount to support themselves so how can you justify taking what little they have, its just a vote winning exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I'm thinking the administration isn't worth the savings. Either let them keep their earned money as a lesson for life or take it all off them for the same reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Cool, can we do the same to those people with swedish bank accounts or offshore assets?

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Prison has several purposes: punishment, reform, safety of public, revenge and deterrent. The test of an effective prison system is to decide whether or not it reduces the amount of crime and the number of criminals.

    There is a steady trend of crime figures reducing in the UK. I'd say the prison service is doing something right - without dank cells, rats and thrashings from Daily Mail readers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I watched a BBC programme about a recidivist who had been in care throughout his childhood. He didn't know how to cope with life as an adult and admitted he did crime to get back into prison where he felt safe and had his needs met. We need to improve our social care and maybe then crime will fall. Also, the point is that jail was easy for him, he freely admitted that. Make it a proper hardship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    This smacks of another gimmick to please the the Daily Mail and the Tory Party faithful ahead of next week's conference (first clue there).

    It needs to be recognised that the punishment of prison is the loss of liberty and certain rights and nothing else. If we want prisoners to contribute to society they should be rehabilitated rather than left to rot as a not of people seem to desire.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    50 Minutes ago
    All this will do is ensure more prisoners refuse to work at all.

    Refuse to work?
    This is typical of the muddled up thinking that allows prisoners to chose their punishment.
    Force them to do work such as sorting out rubbish for recycling, work that's too dirty or expensive for others to do.
    Prisoners need choice? Here's one for them, work or starve.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    Oh by jove this is a real winner isn't it 500 prisoners over a million pounds so lets see . £2,000 per person of earnings which they want to deduct 40% or £800 per prisoner for restorative Justice. I though the whole point of prison was to punish and now its taxed too? Restorative justice is not about prison its about taking responsibility or the victim. This is wrong headed to either party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Prison is there to punish and remove in mates.
    If they do not want to work that is fine. No work no TV, no pool table, just there cell a one book a week.
    If you work you get no pay but TV, pool table and the like. There is lots of work for them to do and they might even get the message work for thing you want not nick them.
    Young offends home are seen as a joke to most of us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.


    Prisoners have been paid wages for years, I was in prison 26 years ago and was paid £1.20 a week to sew mail bags (or £1.02 to lie in your cell all day and do nothing), just enough to buy half oz of tobbaco, 1 pack of rizzlas, 1 box of matches and a 2nd class letter, not exactly luxury

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    @ 19. Catherine Clark

    Where on earth do you get the idea that prisoners mostly want to be productive citizens? You also mention "civil liberties".Civil liberties = Civil freedoms, which is something prisoners have forgone the rights to when they get locked up. And what right do they have to have savings? Many of those prisoners have stolen other peoples savings!

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Given that a goodly proportion of the prison population has been through the care system and that those that haven't are fairly likely to have come from those ghastly council estates off of the telly anyway, wouldn't it be a great idea to ensure poor children get a lower standard of education than rich children so as to start the punishment they will inevitably ultimately deserve early?


  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Wow! Did some body finaly wake up? Prison IS there to PUNISH the perpatrator and to make he/she pay for their crime/s. ANY cash earnt by a prisoner should first be used to look after their INNOCENT victim/s! The prisoner is NOTHING untill he/she has paid back 100% to their victims.
    We all know that the punishment is to little for crimes commited in the UK so nows the chance to correct it!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    1 Hour ago

    why dont they just install treadmills for that real retro victorian feel?

    Excellent, about the first bit of common sense I've heard yet, will take the paedophiles mind off matters and stops the thieves from ransacking houses, couldn't agree more throw in a flogging or two, and we may have a little discipline

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Not another crackpot 'crowd-pleaser'. .I completely agree with Philip,'There's economic disaster on the horizon and this government thinks it can distract us by juggling with peanuts.'

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I'm shocked, firstly why are prisoners getting wages? Prison is supposed to be a deterrent, and now do-gooders along with the state are paying prisoners wages. Outrageous, they should not get a penny! nor TV's, or ipods, mobiles the whole lot should be confiscated, what on earth the victims of crime must feel I will never know, absolutely disgraceful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Surely this just guarantees that more prisoners will be more likely to reoffend upon release because of this extra financial burden...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    Mile upon mile upon mile of Britains coastal sea defences were built by physical labour of German prisoners of war.

    Today, due to costs, our pathetic governments just plans to let the sea swallow up limited land, a cheap option, NOT.

    There is NO reason why todays prisoners should not be put to work on more sea defences.

    Installing a work ethic is NOT SLAVERY


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