A ‘Real’ Job is a Release

Prison inmates should be given “real work” opportunities with full employment rights, according to research carried out by criminal justice experts in Birmingham. A report written by Prof David Wilson and Dr Azrini Wahidin, of UCE Birmingham, suggests the Prison Service is missing the chance to capitalise on real work schemes for prisoners.

The authors, based at the university’s Centre for Criminal Justice Policy and Research, also say the service is placing obstacles in the way of outside employers who want to work with prisons.

Their report, Real Work in Prison: Absences, Obstacles and Opportunities, calls for inmates to be given full civil employment rights and real work opportunities that are “rewarding, constructive and challenging”. They suggest that staff jealousies, institutional cultures and the support, or otherwise, of individual governors all impact on whether real work can succeed in a jail.

Prof Wilson, a former prison governor who resigned in 1997, said: “Obstacles to real work taking place in prison can range from external employers not being given a telephone line to staff deliberately setting out to frustrate opportunities.

“One interviewee commented that if a real work scheme was introduced at the prison where she worked, prisoners would be taunted by staff.”

Dr Wahidin, who has joined UCE Birmingham from the University of Kent, said: “The advantages of engaging prisoners on real work schemes are great, not just for the prisoners who gain new skills and training, but also for society in terms of reduced re-offending after release.”