Oakwood and Drake Hall inmates working in prison call centres

HMP Oakwood The Ministry of Justice said inmates could not see sensitive information

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Convicted criminals in the West Midlands are being paid to work in call centres inside their prisons.

Inmates at HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton, and Drake Hall, in Staffordshire, carry out market research for insurance companies.

The Centre for Crime Prevention said the project was "incredibly naive".

But the Ministry of Justice said it was a pilot scheme which may be rolled out further if it is successful, and added the prisoners have risk assessments.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: "We do not want prisoners sitting idle in their cells when they should be working towards their rehabilitation.

Sensitive information

"We prepare offenders for work inside prison so they can get a job after release - this reduces the chances that they will reoffend in the future, meaning lower crime and fewer victims.

"All prisoners working in call centres are risk-assessed and stringent security measures are in place, with calls supervised and recorded."

She said the small pilots are being monitored and would only be increased to other prisons if they were deemed successful.

She added the workers cannot see sensitive information about the people they are calling, such as addresses.

The phone numbers of customers are also protected as all calls are routed through a computer.

"At no point can they ask the value of items, record data outside of the secure systems or deviate from a carefully-worded script," she added.

The spokeswoman could not say whether any other prisons have similar schemes, nor which companies run the ones mentioned above.

She confirmed the work is taking place within the confines of the prisons.

On their websites, both facilities say work opportunities are available for inmates.

'Risk assessed'

Alex Hewson from the Prison Reform Trust said they supported the scheme.

"We encourage this type of scheme because it develops skills that may prove to be useful for the workplace generally, and gives prisoners a greater chance of getting employment on release," he said.

"I can understand why there may be concerns but the scheme is risk-assessed and I think it's really important those people get opportunities to help them resettle."

A statement from G4S, which runs HMP Oakwood prison, said: "The call centre at HMP Oakwood is one of many partnerships we run with businesses, and enables prisoners to work towards apprenticeships and industry-recognised qualifications.

"All the prisoners are carefully security checked and interviewed before working in the centre, calls are made remotely by computer, and every conversation is closely monitored by supervisors. No information from the calls is stored and there is no way any personal information can be used for any criminal purposes."

Oakwood is a male prison and Drake Hall is for female offenders.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    They should use them on a new Crime Advice hotline for householders to obtain security advice.


  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Knowing how often things go wrong with systems. I wouldn't want to call these centres who are using crooks. There's bound to be one or two who pass checks who should've failed. We know how rubbish the system can be with these things.
    Which companies are using them? I want to know so I can exercise my right to choose and avoid talking to convicted criminals about my insurance thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Sounds like a good idea as it gets those who may feel they have no option but crime some real work experience that can help them break their current offending cycle on release.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    How did the numpties in charge risk assess a prisoner against being blackmailed into giving home details / insurances details / identity theft details to others? How did the numpties that be risk assess a prisoner against collecting data for future house robberies when they get out by them or their mates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    It might be easier for me to get a job if I get sent to prison then.


  • Comment number 65.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    The prison system is far too liberal today. Prisoners are pampered by the guards, they all have their own TV, games and activities, gym, many even have PlayStation's, DVD players, carpets, duvet and curtains in their cell. I say bring back the old slop-out regime and make criminals really FEAR prison with bad food, cold cells, and itchy clothes. The EU dictates our current holiday camp system.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Let us not forget that one day an inmate at one of these institutions could be working in the call centre and the next they could be released and working at ... a call centre!

    I do agree, however, that the prisoners should be paid the minimum wage for their work, but that most of the money should be put in a savings account for the prisoner on release - for, say, a deposit on a rented home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Would be nice to know which Insurance Companies are tapping this state funded resource.

    That way we could do the good capitalist thing and exercise choice, by going elsewhere for our insurance needs.

    Come on BBC, do some journalism please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Jobs go to prisoners, more people remain unemployed.
    Benefits are cut meaning more unemployed people turn to crime to provide for themselves.
    They're sent to jail to do the job they could've done in the first place but now it's more profitable for the employers.
    Prisons are privatised so the companies get more tax £'s for the more people in prison.

    Welcome to Great Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    First of all the ones inside are the ones that got caught. Prisoners are not a different species.
    Secondly there is a lot of criminal activity on the outside: unjust and exploitative behaviour that should be illegal.
    Thirdly a high proportion of the prison population have learning difficulties that in part explain why they did wrong.

    So morally: should they be left to rot or rehabilitated???

  • Comment number 59.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    This seems to be a DMail story. The right-leaning DM is more than happy to point out that this is happening in a privatised prison (i.e. pointing out problems with a policy it should be inclined to agree with).

    What a contrast with the BBC and its agenda-led Miranda-story bore-fest, which it is desperately trying to force on us, but is refusing an HYS where opposing views could be aired...

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    This is ridiculous! These 50p/h jobs could be going towards our workfare programs and 'helping' the youth take their first step in becoming corporate work machines!

    (Before you downvote, please remember to turn your sarcasm detector on.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.


    "404 page not found"

    same response I get every time I try to apply for a job.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Retributive (or revengeful) or restorative. The first does not work, some 56% do it again. The second cuts that in half despite the home office keeping that quiet because the public love revenge and we must keep the bureaucrats in work. Who is stealing from us now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    @50 UsuallyRight

    ...More than often wrong though!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Makes perfect sense. Most of the unsolicited sales calls I get are plainly from crooks, so this explains everything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Why not instead have them do community service? The types of jobs that NO ONE really does such as cleaning gum and other muck off the streets, fishing rubbish out of rivers and canals etc. If there was a market for these types of jobs, they'd have been done already.

    Plus it saves councils having to do these types of work, (hopefully) freeing them up to focus on other things we'd all appreciate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    So much for punishment in jail. We have good people desperatly looking for jobs and this goverment give the work to bad people in jail at a lower hourly rate thereby saving the firm a lot of money.Mind you,it means that the ministers who have shares in this company will get a bigger share dividend so it can't all be bad.Make the rich richer we say-a pox on the honest working class.


Page 37 of 40


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