Rather than offshore work to staff overseas, employers should consider onshoring it to inmates within the prison system, an offender rehabilitation expert has suggested.
The campaign should be aimed at organisations that were either thinking of going down the offshoring route or returning work to the UK, it said.
However, to make the situation a reality, more would need to be done in a general sense to promote the potential commercial benefits for employers of taking on offenders who were still in custody, it warned.
Debbie Ryan, Working Links’ director of justice services, said that, while prison governors could see the clear rehabilitative value of having working gaols, employers that had already worked with offenders understood both the “commercial and societal benefits” of their investment.
As a result, “we hope this new insight will point to some new solutions that will help the prison estate work more effectively with employers,” Ryan continued. “We also hope that the enthusiasm prison governors show for commercial enterprises can be harnessed through new models of partnership between prisons, businesses and employment services specialists.”
To this end, the report recommended providing governors with more autonomy in making commercial arrangements directly with employers. It also suggested providing both them and prison staff with business training and work placement opportunities so that they could understand employers’ needs more effectively.
Prison governors should also be able to contract directly with private and voluntary sector organisations to help them set up workshops, while being allowed to keep a percentage of any profit generated by them to spend at their discretion, it said.
The report was based on input from companies that currently employ ex-offenders as well as prison governors and officers from a range of gaols in England and Wales.
In August this year, the prison population stood at 86,801, but only 10,000 of them worked a full week – even though research shows that securing employment deters ex-offenders from returning to a life of crime.