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 750.

    they should be breaking rocks, the unemployed should be in the call centres, tough on crime? tough on the causes of crime ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 749.

    what a mess. all these flakey liberals who are ok with this need their personal details displayed on a prison toilet wall. then maybe they will understand all about rehab and how it doesn't work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 748.

    735.Peter Buck
    Most cold calls I get are foreigners so what is the difference?

    I'll take a wild guess - foreigners live abroad and work for a company the work has been outsourced to, UK prisoners are prisoners in the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 747.

    Why have the BBC seen fit to place this story in the nether regions of the website front page, together with the TUCs assertions about government policies negative impact on reducing anticipated pensions for many people? While Edinburgh comedy awards are 'headlined' together with Paris jewel theives?

    Something is very wrong at the BBC in my opinion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 746.

    Prisoners working and keeping physically and mentally active helping them rehabilitate and learning new skills = good.

    Prisoners generating profits for private companies who then have a vested interest in seeing more people incarcerated to prop up their revenue streams (see America) = very, VERY bad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 745.

    Why aren't honestly unemployed people being given these jobs, instead of letting these lowlife reap the benefits ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 744.


    Sorry, but you are part of a collective. It is called society. We all make our compromises to fit in. The people who don't usually end up in prison or sectioned. I do feel there is far too much concentration these days on differences rather than similarities. I accept that being different is edgy and fashionable but even that has become conformist.

    I think we can both beef at authority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 743.

    #740 Firstly speeding IS a crime. It can kill people, unlike the single biggest reason women are jailed (none payment of fines for none payment of TV licence) . This scheme has only just started so is not the reason you're out of work. My local B&Q has multiple 20 hour a week jobs on offer. Why not try them instead of HYS?

  • rate this

    Comment number 742.

    @728 Fgnfxg

    There is no reason they should have priority, but you suggested that prison should be a form of deterrence, I have suggested were this effective it would prove an active deterrent to crime by moving criminals into lawful society and its possible benefit to society.

    Would you accept this could conceivably be an effective deterrent and if so would you oppose it anyway?

  • Comment number 741.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 740.


    All I can say is that I don't have a criminal record and I can't secure employment. I don't see why a prisoner who has committed a crime (and I do mean a crime not driving penalties) should be given a leg up over someone who doesn't have a record. These news boards are full of people like me who want work and just can't get it. Possibly because of schemes like this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 739.

    @731.Peter_Sym, I'd actaully give them the money when they are released or to thier families, less any tax, NI and contributions towards a fund that helps vitcims (say 25% of wage after deductions).

  • rate this

    Comment number 738.

    Many calls from call centers are from countries such as India and Pakistan.
    So perhaps we should also offer this employment to prisoners over there.
    Woops shouldn't give them ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 737.

    Reminds me of "Cool Hand Luke".....

  • rate this

    Comment number 736.

    There are not enough jobs for everyone who wants one at the moment, due to this kind of scheme. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for ex-inmates to find employment - they have very low levels of employment.
    I would not be against the scheme if it were proved to work, but would not want to subsidise private companies' profits through it, or take jobs away from other people. @732 - agreed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 735.

    Most cold calls I get are foreigners so what is the difference?

  • rate this

    Comment number 734.

    I should have the right to know that I might be giving my details to a convicted criminal but I bet the persons called are not told.

  • rate this

    Comment number 733.

    Although I welcome most forms of rehabilitation to help convicts back into society, I'm not sure if this is the right time to do this when we have a large number of unemployed looking for work. If this is a form of cheap labour then this should not be encouraged. Why not provide them with courses run by a college or enrol them on the Open University?

  • rate this

    Comment number 732.

    If prisoners are to work it should be for the good of the community, NOT private companies profiting from cheap labour.

    If this cheap labour is to be exploited let it be to build affordable housing, work on other government schemes, infrastructure projects, roads, railways, rivers, canals and other community projects that have been cut under the current regime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 731.

    #725 I agree. I also fail to see how being made to carry out boring & fairly unpleasant work (cold call me & I'll give you a very unpleasant 60 seconds) all day rather than watch TV & play X-box can be LESS of a deterrent.

    The only gray issue is payment. I'd pay full call centre wages then deduct at source to compensate their victims

    #728 The crim record offsets any 'experience' then some


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