Prisons: Employment

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 15th December 2015.

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Photo of Christina Rees Christina Rees Labour, Neath

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisoners are employed in prisons in (a) the most recent period for which figures are available and (b) each of the last five years.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We want prisons to be places of hard work, rigorous education and high ambition, with incentives for prisoners to learn and for prison staff to prioritise education and work.

That is why all prisons provide opportunities for offenders to work and learn new skills which can help them find a job on release and support their rehabilitation. We work continuously with employers nationally and locally – including with other Government Departments - to create new opportunities in line with our code of practice.

NOMS uses a specific definition of 'work' which is only used for commercial and industrial scale work and specific work activities[1].These figures do not include the substantial number of prisoners in other learning, vocational training and work opportunities within prison on tasks such as cooking, serving meals, maintenance and cleaning which can help them find a job on release and support their rehabilitation. The figures also exclude work placements undertaken by offenders on release from prison on temporary licence.

Work in prisons continues to grow steadily, with 14.9 million working hours delivered in the year 14/15. In the same year, on average 11,500 prisoners and detainees were undertaking specific work activities1 in custody at any one time across public sector prisons, privately-managed prisons and Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs).

As part of our programme of prison reform, we are determined to build on this, so that prisons can help offenders get the skills and qualifications to make a success of life on the outside. To do this we need to put the tools to drive this change in the hands of those at the frontline who best know what works. Prison Governors need freedom to innovate and find better ways of rehabilitating offenders, including through a focus on work, in a system geared towards innovation and local partnerships.

Figures are published in the NOMS Annual Report 2014/15: Management Information Addendum on the Gov.uk website at the following location: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/prison-and-probation-performance-statistics-2014-to-2015.

Table 17 of the publication shows the average number of prisoners working in industrial activities in public sector prisons only in the years 2010/11 to 2014/15. Figures for privately-managed prisons and IRCs are not available prior to 2014/15.

[1] Including Enterprise/Contract Services, Engineering, Aluminium, Laundry, Newgate Furniture, Concrete, Plastics, Textiles, Woodwork, Food Packing, Commercial Land Based Activities, Braille, Charity, Printing, Data Entry, Signs, Desk Top Publishing, Retail, External Recycling and other workshops.

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