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 450.

    There's no mention in the article of how much the insurance companies are paying (i.e. are the lags undercutting other workers or competing fairly). This is surely a key detail - was this asked by the journalist? If not, why not?
    Perhaps we need prisoners workings as journalists as the current lot are rarely up to the job. There's more to journalism than paraphrasing a press release!

  • rate this

    Comment number 449.


    You can't just go and get a job. I've applied to everything from sweeping up to jobs which had the same title as my thesis with no luck what-so-ever. Everyone I know who has a job either got it 8-10 years ago or if they got it more recently are working for family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 448.

    They should have prision work gangs, digging ditches, crops/farm work etc.

    It teaches a prisioner what an honest days work is all about, and what the the rest of do during the day, rather than committing crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 447.

    For a set of lefties, you lot don't half have some double standards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 446.

    "414.E Doyle
    With foreign criminals making up a sizeable proportion of the UK prison population only UKIP has the policies to truly solve this problem. Vote UKIP. Vote Britain."

    13% is not sizable you UKIP spambot. If you want proof of the figures read further back to where I already addressed your laughable point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 445.

    100% of the UK prison population are people, should we get shut of them?

    People who have committed crimes and should be penalised for those crimes. Not given nice little numbers in call centres or given a vote or any number of other hare brained schemes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    What an absolute joke!
    There are so many unemployed honest people who would do this type of work willingly (for nothing!) and we are giving it to prisoners who are being paid!
    Speechless - the UK has gone mad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    No wonder we have so many people in prison who shouldn't be there - they are making profits for the private prisons!

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    Laughing at some people who think they'll be wheeling in lecter style rapists and murderers rigged up to a headset. I'm sure the people who get his cushy job are serving for lesser crimes, though great opportunity for burglars once they get out....'so your house is unoccupied between 0700 and 1800, and you don't have a five lever lock....interesting'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    408. Sally the contrarian
    Then your metaphor is wrong. People in the developing world choose those jobs, rather than starving to death as their ancestors did ( see China's great leap forward)
    China's great leap forward was an insane plan by mao between 58-61 that took farmers and turned them into steel workers. It caused a famine that killed >15 million. Whatever you mean it isn't this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    WHEN, WHEN, WHEN, is this country going to get a grip?
    OF COURSE prisoners should be rehabilitated but GET REAL-they should not be placed anywhere near personal data and WHO in Whitehall signed this off-they should be SACKED IMMEDIATELY.
    First of all, get the TV's and Play stations out of prisons and fill them with BOOKS.
    We really need a total change in our political system.


  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    385. Sally the contrarian
    You seem unable to formulate original ideas of your own & resort to Friedman & Schiff . I don't see the point engaging in an exchange of name dropping economists with opposing views.
    I dismiss your opinions as a trivial irrelevance borne out of either a misunderstanding of people’s plight in this country or alternatively a callous disregard of the same .

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    "your right no one but you & your like understand what their talking about
    I didn't say "no one". I said "You" don't. Your own comments condemn you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    This most certainly will have an impact on currently unemployed people.

    Quote from a post below:
    "We should not feel hard done by, as who would want to work for minimum wage in a call centre?"

    Yes please. I need a job very badly and see no way for me to live past the next ten months or so without one (when my savings run out). It's more desperate out there than you realise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Right wing, hang em & flog em fury to the fore.

    Will it affect house prices and immigration?

    We should be told as then the fury can be even more ridiculous.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    Oh this made me laugh.

    So if you are genuinely out of work, a nes Government backed scheme encourages you to commit a criminal offence, be imprisoned an dthen they will 'find' you a job.

    Is this a privately run prison? If so, I guess the owners keep any profit.


    We are all in it together!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    414. E Doyle
    Foreign criminals may indeed make up a seizable portion of the UK inmate population. 100% of the UK prison population are people, should we get shut of them?

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    Why is it if you're a terrorist, prisoner, or other misfit in society you get so well looked after? If you're a hardworking, honest taxpayer you get absolutely nothing!The other weekend we received a threatening council tax reminder,my husband phoned to find out if they'd received the cheque,they had TWO days before they sent out the letter! We always pay on time so why do we get treated so badly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Too many people are going off against this idea on the basis that everyone in prison is a low life good for nothing who will do anything to cheat an old lady. I have never seen a HYS on the BBC that has so much ill informed debate. The unemployed whingers should try looking for a job in a call centre before complaining they can't get one because i am sure you can start tomorrow if you like.

  • rate this

    Comment number 431.

    They should employ some in the government canteens they'd feel more at home there alongside another bunch of criminals.


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