A new report published on 2nd June 2017 by the Prison Reform Trust details findings of a two-year programme at HMP Brixton set up to give practical training and employment opportunities for prisoners and to develop ways in which prisons can set up sustainable training and employment networks to aid in the resettlement of prisoners.
Their report found that there should be a step change in the availability of release on temporary license (ROTL) out of prisons to give more businesses the opportunity to employ prisoners in the community as part of preparation for their release, as the major obstacle they faced was prison policy rather than persuading employers to come aboard. This report highlights that in the case of HMP Brixton there had been some links between certain sectors outside the prison that were able to assist people in attaining jobs post release. These organisations (the Clink and Bounce Back) had established links within the catering and construction sectors. According to the report it was quite simple to build on and extend these links.
Advantages of the system as applied in HMP Brixton:
- The prisoner had already established a link with the employer prior to release, therefore the employer knew about their criminal record;
- The employer was able to assess the prisoner’s ability prior to offering them a permanent position upon release;
- The prisoner was able to save some of their wage earned while working for the employer when in prison. While a portion of the wage was allocated to victim support charities, prisoners were able to save the majority of the wage that could be used as a deposit for accommodation post release;
- Some employers could gain from certain positions that were voluntary. These voluntary positions while not ideal could be useful for certain prisoners that were out of employment for an extensive period of time or had never been employed;
- Prisoners who managed to successfully acquire a position on the scheme were already risk assessed by the prison and deemed suitable prior to commencing the employment.
Disadvantages highlighted in the report:
- While for some prisoners voluntary positions were useful, there had been a considerable quantity of voluntary positions which it was claimed was a squandered opportunity to assist prisoners to be able to enter into paid employment positions post release;
- The risk assessment process was not a key priority of the Offender Management Unit in HMP Brixton and thus had no specific targets attached to it. This meant that resources were not diverted to the scheme which also meant that the quantity of those risk assessed was quite low (never reaching above 50);
- Prisoners transferred to HMP Brixton were either sent with no prior risk assessment completed by the sending prison or were sent with too little time left on their sentence to engage in the programme;
- The employers and the prisoners were both eager and willing to engage in the process but were hampered by the administrative elements outlined above.
- C.V. skill workshops should be run for those nearing the end of their sentence or attempting to engage with employers in the programme;
- Such programmes should become the key focus of prisons when dealing with suitable prisoners coming to the end of their sentences;
- Relationships between employers and prisons needs to be effectively maintained by senior management teams;
- Until a national framework is introduced each individual governor should try to locally implement and maintain such programmes.
Read the report here.