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 790.

    At least we might get a chance to have our sunday lunch interrupted by a lovely warm Wolverhampton accent rather than an incomprehensible Indian or South Korean one!

    (I'm sure they speak their own languages beautifully it's just obvious that overseas call centres don't bother to check if their employees speak the language of the "target" country)...

  • rate this

    Comment number 789.

    @782 Tara757 @783 Fed up since 1997

    You seem to have a different view here

    Taking it as a metaphor I thought original point was that they need to pay for their upkeep hence making them do work that is paid, this will always take jobs from other people who could get paid for it

    If it is just to payback the community I agree have always thought community sentences were far more useful & cheaper

  • rate this

    Comment number 788.

    Anyone who has worked in a call centre will tell you how much of a hell it is, the two couldn't be a greater match for each other.
    Would be good to know if some of the profits would go towards prison upkeep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 787.


    Working in jobs that bring them into contact with personal information.

    And it's all organized by the British government.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  • rate this

    Comment number 786.

    @776 Philip van Bergen
    "I'd rather speak to a good old British lag than some numpty in an Indian call centre who I can't even understand "

    I'd rather speak to someone who is a law-abiding resident of the UK who should have the job over either of the above.

  • rate this

    Comment number 785.

    Crooks working for crooks! Given my experience with insurance companies, their own business practices seem criminal as it is!

  • rate this

    Comment number 784.

    I thought that cruel and degrading punishments were an abuse of human rights. Personally I'd rather be breaking rocks. At least I'd be in the open air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 783.

    781. Mariner. That is the point. They are inside for punishment so make the work so pointless that as they struggle to do it it componds their comprehension.

    They are not inside to work for any benefit at all. That was given up when they committed their crimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 782.

    @781. Mariner
    Some people actually need the call centre jobs. The shifting sand was a metaphor for doing something like manual hard labour. Community work like the Community Service people do would be a start.

  • rate this

    Comment number 781.

    @780 Fed up since 1997

    How would shifting ten tonnes of sand be of benefit to anyone to pay for their upkeep, I'm confused!

    Surely if they are to work to pay for their upkeep they need to do jobs that are actually in demand, jobs like in call centers?

  • rate this

    Comment number 780.

    Crime = Prison = Punishment. I was always under the allusion that this was the formula?
    Yes, prisoners should work whilst incarcerated but give them a spoon and make 'em shift ten tonnes of sand with it to pay for their upkeep.

  • rate this

    Comment number 779.

    So u are for ppl being exploited so u can have cheap goods.
    1. Why can't we make the minimum wage £50p/h?
    2. What is Libertarianism, and why don't I meet it?

    With humility, I wish I stood atop your mountain of knowledge, from where you apparently show scant regard for Schiff and Friedman - who do not differ, actually, on the Minimum Wage - as you incorrectly allege.

  • rate this

    Comment number 778.

    Derek & Clive never mentioned call centres...

  • rate this

    Comment number 777.

    718. Vince

    Jobs in Call Centres? That's not a job, that's being a pest.



    Until you want something that is e.g. help after a car accident, a new channel on your sky package, a mobile phone upgrade, a credit card, advice on being in debt, any 999 service, anything from your council - then what are they?

    The arrogance of some people is astounding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 776.

    I'd rather speak to a good old British lag than some numpty in an Indian call centre who I can't even understand!

  • rate this

    Comment number 775.

    Whilst the idea that someone who may have been incarcerated for stealing has my details does make me uncomfortable, there is a value in teaching prisoners with anger management issues how to deal with abuse from people they are speaking to in a controlled environment and learn to deal with these issues constructively rather than in the outside world by themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 774.


    Have you not heard of tabbed browsing? I watched the Olympics on I player whilst simultaneously posting on huffington post and looking for work on www.gov.uk

    The trouble is UK employers don't want UK citizens working for them, cheaper options exist elsewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 773.

    Having worked in many a call centre I can see how this may be considered as a punishment. I also feel that this is belittling people out there looking for work any work, any work regardless of how stressful it is. If you haven't worked in a call centre I cannot tell you just how stressful some of them are. Also what is to stop inmates from saying whatever they want to who they're calling?

  • rate this

    Comment number 772.

    Im all for rehabilitation,but i think it should be by constructive means - putting something back into society, Community Service type jobs, Litter picking for example, cleaning graffitti - trying to make the community that they have made suffer in some way, a better/nicer place to live. if they learn a vaulable life lesson along the way such as the meaning of hard work, it can only be positive!

  • rate this

    Comment number 771.

    ministry of defence argument is ridiculous and transparent that it has nothing to do with rehabilitation, nothing to do with helping people find work when they leave, these are just excuses used to placate people but infuriate me!


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