My Lords, our prisons are a national embarrassment. Fifty years ago, I served as trustee of the William House Trust, a home for discharged prisoners in Manchester providing accommodation and employment help. I want to focus my remarks on the need to reduce recidivism by providing training and employment opportunities for offenders.
The retailer Timpson is probably the best example in this regard, with 10% of its workforce ex-offenders and the provision of training opportunities in prisons. Other companies have some sort of involvement: Boots, Greggs, Halfords, McDonald’s, Pret a Manger, Toyota and Whitbread. But they and others could do so much more. There are huge opportunities, particularly in the hospitality sector and within building trades, both of which have severe skills shortages. I have six specific recommendations.
First, prison governors should build bridges with firms in their locality and liaise with local chambers of commerce. National employers should encourage local managers to visit prisons and establish a dialogue.
Secondly, the Ministry of Justice should appoint a senior, perhaps retired, person from the private sector to work full-time on encouraging employers to participate, ideally perhaps a major national figure.
Thirdly, public companies should report their involvement in this whole area in their annual reports.
Fourthly, the Justice Secretary and Ministers should create an award, similar perhaps to the Queen’s Award for Enterprise or Investors in People, and have an annual awards event acknowledging best practice in this area.
Fifthly, employer organisations such as the CBI, the National Federation of Builders and the British Hospitality Association should be pressured by the highest levels of government to assume greater responsibilities for promoting this work.
Finally, many prisoners have particular trades or skills. Those should be utilised, and the prisoners rewarded for passing on their expertise to other inmates wherever possible. Offenders should be used for smaller building and maintenance project work within their own prisons, preparing them for future employment on release.