Kent

HMP Standford Hill prisoners get HGV-driving lessons

Lorry
Image caption "Suitable" inmates are sent on courses in Sittingbourne or at the prison

Prisoners are being offered HGV-driving lessons in a bid to reduce reoffending.

HMP Standford Hill in Eastchurch on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent has launched the scheme with company Mainstream Training.

"Suitable" inmates are sent on courses, including learning to drive HGVs and forklift trucks, at the company's base in Sittingbourne or at the jail.

The Ministry of Justice said this was the first time such training had been made available to prisoners.

The Category D open prison houses inmates approaching the end of their sentences.

The mainly classroom-based lessons are funded by donations from organisations including the Royal London Society and the Salvation Army.

Inmates have to pay the money back once they find jobs.

Paul Tolley, senior operations manager at Mainstream, said: "It's not a freebie. These aren't free driving lessons for personal use.

"Once their term is up, they are given a small amount of money and told basically to get on with it.

"What we have done is put a programme in place to help get them trained, get a CV together and help them get a job."

'Conveyor belt system'

He said a person was less likely to reoffend if they were in full-time work.

He added: "The money used to train them will be paid back to help the next person rehabilitate. It's like a conveyor belt system."

Mr Tolley said half of the 30 or so people trained so far had since found employment.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "This is the first time something like this has been run in prisons.

"Our priority is to rehabilitate prisoners and this scheme helps prepare them for work at zero-cost to the taxpayer.

"Prisoners are helping themselves find a job on release so they don't just return to a life of crime."

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