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An Inside Job?

40 minutes
First broadcast:
Tuesday 01 November 2011

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke wants more jobs for convicts. He told his party conference: "If we want prison to work, then our prisoners have got to be working". He encourages private companies to open workshops inside prisons, where inmates would be 'properly paid' for hard work, would pay their due of taxes and help fund victims' support.
Mr Clarke points to a metal factory in a Merseyside prison where prisoners work a 40 hour week and learn skills which could make them more employable on release. He argues that this will also make then less likely to return to crime.
But is this plan practicable?
Prison Governors say that two-thirds of their inmates were unemployed before they started their sentences and that they are generally reluctant to engage in meaningful work. They say many of them can hardly read and write.
Governors also fear that moving jobs inside prison would mean taking opportunities away from law-abiding job-seekers outside. And they complain that it would prove costly in terms of staff time.
One prison reform group which set up a pioneering graphic design studio inside prison says the project was popular and effective among prisoners but was forced to close following hostility and obstruction from officers.
Gerry Northam asks if the government is overstating the possible advantages of its policy, and investigates whether it can be made to succeed at a time when the Ministry of Justice faces funding cuts.
Producer: Ian Muir-Cochrane.

  • Prisoner work plans criticised

    Prisoner work plans criticised

    Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's plans to get large numbers of prisoners in England and Wales working have been criticised by prison governors and officers, who warn they are not practical.

    Read Gerry Northam's article on the BBC news website


    The government wants to make prisoners work hard, pay tax and help fund victims' support. It argues this will also make them less likely to return to crime. Can its plans succeed?

    Read the transcript


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