Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tory Ken Clarke on right track with paid work for prisoners in jail, he needs to go alot further to break cycle of serial offending, opportunities

Dear All

The Tories are coming to the conclusion that Prison doesn’t work, but the trick isn’t locking people up but keeping them out.

Breaking the cycle of offending is the challenge facing the UK Government.

The cost of keeping someone locked up for a year is circa £32k and that doesn’t take into account the loss of revenue tax if these people were productive.

The latest idea along that path is proposing that Prisoners in England and Wales should work a 40-hour week and get paid for it.

The pay would be the minimum wage and the chance to learn skills.

Does this idea have merit?

Yes but when it comes to anything outside the ‘tough on crime’ approach the waters are unknown and uncharted for Tories.

The idea is a baby step and has to go further because the question is what happens the day after release.

The Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is treading new ground but part of that ground is reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

Prisoners have to be given a clean slate otherwise their only chance of employment will be a prison job.

A large section of society is effectively shut out of employment because of their previous chaotic lifestyle which accumulated in them ending up in prison.

And that on a job application means they have absolutely no chance of secure a good job with prospects.

Clarke made the announcement to the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday by saying that the government will begin a major expansion of prison industries.

Prisoners however cannot be forced to work but the carrot is getting paid which means start up money when they get out.

Another carrot should also be that further down the line, prisoners should be eligible to get jobs while in prison outside.

Anyone breaching outside work conditions by the slightest infraction, permanently banned from that part of the programme.

No excuses tolerated.

The road to a successful policy will not be easy and there will be problems but the concept is viable provided that a whole series of other measures coming into play.

Opportunity must be available, if not the initiative will fail.

Yours sincerely

George Laird
The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

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