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 770.

    @754 Fgnfxg

    Thanks and sorry if you felt I was needling you, I am just concerned that a lot of the reaction on here was hysterical and not very sensible and like examining exactly what people believe and why.

    All the best in your job hunt, I sincerely hope you find something soon.

  • rate this

    Comment number 769.

    I trust the prisoners more than i trust G4S.

  • rate this

    Comment number 768.

    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.
    By plan, you mean central economic planning on an extreme degree, just as London does, albeit less extreme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 767.

    so do they erase there minds at te end of the day then?

    This is utter madness is this more corporate greed using slave type labour

    So how exactly are they going to monitor this has not effects

    House insurance company "Do you use a Services where the call centre is staffed with prisoners if so we will not insure you" drops phone

  • rate this

    Comment number 766.

    Why bother to 'lock' them up in the first place? The so called punishment is a joke to start with.
    This is prisoner 2326548 how may I help you? I SAID! HOW MAY I HELP YOU?

  • rate this

    Comment number 765.

    what a mess. all these flakey liberals who are ok with this

    I think you'll find it is the Tori govt that has implemented this so big business can cut more costs. Interesting you blame the liberals though! 0/10 for arguement but 10/10 for effort.

  • rate this

    Comment number 764.

    To be honest, their lifestyle probable is better than a single guy living alone, just about making ends meet. He'll have the added stress of paying bills etc, but still won't be able to afford much outside of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 763.

    Can you spell "gulag"?

    It seems we are now doing everything we criticise our "enemies" for:

    - work camps with forced labour
    - politically motivated detainment (David Miranda)
    - spying on innocent citizens (GCHQ revelations)
    - corrupt officials

    My, haven't we come a long way...

  • rate this

    Comment number 762.

    @743,know the law before you correct others in error, speeding is a civil offence in the UK, not a criminal one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 761.

    Strange - I have always said these market research people who "cold-call" at inconvenient times and ruin my day should be sent to prison!! I registered with "Telephone Preference Service" and still get bothered, because companies use an international number.

  • rate this

    Comment number 760.

    "All the prisoners are carefully security checked and interviewed before working in the centre,..."

    Surely all the prisoners have been carefully security checked and interviewed already.

    By the court that convicted them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 759.

    I've worked in an insurance call centre - and know how stringent rules are. I'm not sure what the prisoners are doing or who for, as they have to rigidly follow a script.

    Prisoners in the community isn't new - I remember Open prisoners working at the warehouse I worked at 15 years years ago. I can't say that they added much value to us, but could well have helped them. I'm all for this scheme.

  • rate this

    Comment number 758.

    call me old fashioned but don't think this is a good idea.

    the insurance companies involved should be obliged to tell their customers that they are using prisoners for this work and the reason why.

    no problem giving prisoners meaningful work but as another person said community based work would be more appropriate

  • rate this

    Comment number 757.

    They should definitely be doing more useful jobs - sorting recycling, cleaning the streets, etc. If they cleaned the public toilets in town centres, and parks, perhaps more of them would stay open for free?

  • rate this

    Comment number 756.

    @749 MrSaturdayNight

    So may I ask if rehab doesn't work what your solution is?

  • rate this

    Comment number 755.

    UKIP offer the soundest policies on crime.

  • rate this

    Comment number 754.


    I have already acknowledged that a scheme like this could have potential benefits. I have also acknowledged that I don't think particular scheme can do that. I don't see why you try to keep pressing your point. Here's another acknowledgement, I don't have all the answers, but I'm not needling you for answers either.

  • rate this

    Comment number 753.


    The inmates have taken over the asylum !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 752.

    Sounded like a good idea when I first read it then some of the comments made some valid points. Unemployment is getting pretty high and these jobs could have gone to law abiding citizens (but they would need at least minimum wage I guess). Why prisoners aren't already forced to carry out community service projects (building parks etc.) as part of their rehabilitation is beyond me.

  • rate this

    Comment number 751.

    Yet again government and their contractors mimicing a failed American model which continues to create an even more divided society, foodbanks and food stamp class which is growing astronomically.

    Disaster awaits this country if the present approach is allowed to continue.


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