UK

Prisoners' wages: Your stories

  • 26 September 2011
  • From the section UK
Prison officer in the Rotunda area of HMP Manchester

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

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

Former prisoners and victims of crime have been getting in touch with their views.

Simon Davey, former prisoner, Shropshire

"I have served eight months of a 22-month sentence in prison for fraud and was released in February.

I was in Pentonville in north London first, which was a baptism of fire, but during the last four months of my sentence I was at an open prison and spent some time working 'outside' for a Christian charity supporting ex-offenders.

I was earning over £200 a week. 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.

Resettlement is the key, but the current agenda seems to be slanted towards restitution.

It is important that offenders recognise and acknowledge what they have done to their victims. I used part of what I was earning to repay my victim voluntarily and I am still paying them back now on this basis.

As things stand, most prisoners leave with a £46 discharge grant and little or no post-release support. This, in my opinion, is the main contributor to re-offending.

People don't often start planning for their release until a few days before they leave prison, and the only people they know are fellow prisoners and they have no support on the outside.

When I left prison I had an invaluable support network including my church, friends and family members."

Claire Jordan, victim of crime, West Calder, Scotland

"I'm a victim of crime in that I used to run a shop which was forced out of business in part by the difficulty of dealing with repeated shoplifting and raids on the till. But I just want to say what a profoundly stupid idea this is.

We need prisoners to get the idea that they can support themselves by earning a wage.

David Cameron's bright new scheme will just reinforce the idea they already have, that looking for work is a dead end which doesn't pay enough to live on, so they'd better go on thieving.

We want to rehabilitate, so we should be encouraging them that they get rewarded for doing a day's work.

The amount that David Cameron is going to save to claw money from criminals is minimal. This is a daft gimmick and he is trying to sound tough.

In my view it will make things worse. You can't motivate people to do something by making the very thing you want them to do seem unattractive.

If we want prisoners to look for work when they come out, we have to give them the idea that work will bring them respect and a living wage - not that they will be treated like dirt and have to work their socks off for pennies."

More of your comments

I'm a prison officer, and I think it's well overdue. Too many prisoners are living an easy life inside. They complain about three things usually - money, visits and medication. If there were more stringent measures in place, they might actually think twice before committing further crimes. There are many others that are in prison due to other circumstances and these prisoners should be rehabilitated and given opportunity to change. Anonymous

I am finishing off a life sentence. Yes my crime was terrible and a man died. However I have been lucky enough to be given this chance. I can't even afford the petrol to travel to work now. How is this fair? I want to rebuild my life after all these years, [but] I will have to give my job up [and] get £10 per week prison wages, which would make me better off. Whoever has come up with this silly idea - well done. Anonymous

I spent three years from the age of 16 to 19 inside. My best paid job was just £14 per week when I worked as a "peer facilitator" on a drug rehab unit in Portland YOI. I wasn't really working for the money but rather as something to do. Whilst I agree that overall this is a good idea, I disagree with Mr Herbert's assertion that this is going to make prisoners take personal responsibility. This would only be the case if what they were paying was going directly to THEIR victim, rather than just a generic victim. As far as the prisoner knows, their victim wouldn't even be getting anything from Victim Support, and I doubt a prisoner is going to feel a greater sense of responsibility by being forced to give money to someone else's victim. Paul, London

This is weak populist rubbish. If you want to do this properly charge them the full costs of their crime including policing, compensation and court costs, and assign them a "loan" to cover the costs. Pay prisoners the minimum wage for working and make them repay the loan as students do. Their debt to society is repaid when the debt is repaid. Simples. Mikey Gee, Coventry

Like many initiatives this scheme appears laudable, at first sight. However, if one examines it, the less attractive an idea it becomes. The sums involved are insignificant in the grand scheme of things and are unlikely to make a significant contribution to the funding of any scheme. It seems to me that if this is introduced it will serve only to further alienate offenders to no good purpose. Once again, it seems an idea owing more to the atttractions of populist sloganising, rather than any meaningful attempt at introducing a consistent and effect strand of restorative justice. Mark Rowantree, Glasgow, Scotland

I've long argued that prisoners should be charged for their keep while in prison even if it means selling their assets to do so. The rest of us have to pay for our board and lodge. Why should taxpayers pay to feed them? Richard, Scunthorpe