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April 2011 | 13.04.2011
The Rehabilitation Revolution
During the announcement of the Rehabilitation Revolution Green Paper, the Justice Minister’s Kenneth Clarke and Crispin Blunt were getting pelters from the media for being soft on crime.
The POA has given a balanced view and tried to be positive in relation to some of the Green Paper in its response.
Within the Green Paper, there is a vision from Kenneth Clarke about making prisoners work for 40 hours per week and that some of the wage should be given to victims. He announced this to cheers from the Tory faithful at last year’s Conservative Party Conference, but did not expand on the detail. Some would argue that this was just a cheap headline to show how tough he was on criminals or was there some merit in what he was suggesting?
In an ideal world, I can understand why Mr Clarke would want this and why it, might appeal to the British public, rather than seeing prisoners playing pool, darts or cards.
However, it is not that simple for a yes/no debate on whether prisoners should work a 40 hour week, it is extremely difficult. For a start the prospect of prisoners working a 40 hour week cannot be matched by prison staff presently working an average of 39 hours.
It would also be riddled with problems such as being compliant with health and safety regulations, taxation and the Inland Revenue. There is the moral aspect and potential legalities of private firms laying off a workforce and then taking on prisoners for minimum wage. Space would also be a problem, as would the reduction in the core day. Very few prisons have the space to have factories or warehouses. Many jobs for prisoners exist in prisons, for example cleaners, orderlies and kitchen workers to name a few, would they also be entitled to minimum wage? If so where does that extra finance come from at a time when the Coalition Government is dramatically reducing spending in the Ministry of Justice?
This is nothing new; announcements like this were made in the past by Michael Howard. They did not work in the early 1990s and I am sceptical that they will work now.
However, I am not going to rubbish the view of Kenneth Clarke in respect of this. As indicated, the POA has produced its views, which are contained in our response to the Consultation of the Green Paper titled “Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Off enders”. The Consultation ended on 4th March 2011.
Focus on training and education
The POA has identified the problems and I believe it is ambitious and just a quick headline for Kenneth Clarke. Rather than focusing on work, perhaps the focus should be more on training and education to ensure that off enders are given the skills to ensure that they are employable when they leave prison. Consequently, perhaps they will be able to hold a full time job on release, rather than assisting private companies in making profits from paying minimum wage, whilst these prisoners are in prison.
There is not enough detail for me to support the view of Kenneth Clarke at this time in respect of this initiative, so I would have to err on the side of caution and state that his plans will not work.
Rehabilitation of offenders
However, I am in favour of rehabilitation of off enders and protection of the general public from crime and the effects of criminality. The POA has been clear, that we will support any Government to reduce crime, but until the real issues such as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, mental illness, social exclusion and education are tackled, then politicians of all parties are not effectively dealing with the problems.
Dealing effectively with these issues will see our prison population fall and perhaps there will be no need to debate whether prisoners should be working whilst incarcerated. I fear these issues will be ignored because there is no investment.