Thinktank Onward has suggested in a new report that reoffending rates could be reduced if prisoners were able to spend 40 hours a week or more training or working. The report and recommendations were presented to the prisons minister on 25 June. It has won the support of MPs, businesses and other organisations.
Onward makes its recommendations following the government’s declaration that prisons would experience a rehabilitation overhaul that has failed to materialise. Despite ministers claiming that this would improve the prospects of offenders, there has been a drop in positive ratings of prisons providing purposeful activities. Purposeful activities help to prepare prisoners for release and often enable them to find work, and employment has been shown to be an effective route out of crime. Worrying statistics from the Ministry of Justice show that a meagre 17% of prisoners have been able to secure a job a year after their release. Onward has called for laws to be changed to encourage employers to hire prisoners who study apprenticeships with them prior to their release.
Senior professionals in prisons and in the education sector have long been voicing the opinion that a sole focus on punishing prisoners for their crimes only exacerbates the problem on release and also does the victim no favours either, as the offender is more likely to return to criminal activity. By providing prisoners with proper training, they are far more likely to find work once they’ve served their sentences and settle back into society. In an attempt to improve the situation, the Ministry of Justice has created a jobs plan to help reduce the cost of reoffending, which comes in at a whopping £15b each year. And with over 230 businesses registering to work with prisoners since the launch of the plan, it seems that things could improve for prison education.