Insights The Value of Work in Prisons
05 February 2018

The Value of Work in Prisons

Value of work in prisons

Work and education in prisons can be traced back over many centuries, so is hardly innovative or new. However, with the Government rethinking its approach to the ways in which prisons are run - and promoting greater governor autonomy - there could be some fresh impetus to this long-standing activity on the inside. 

Key to the rehabilitation process

It’s important to understand the difference between meaningful work in prisons (designed to educate, up-skill and rehabilitate) and forced prison labour, which is associated with chain gangs and modern slavery. The latter is not only abhorrent, it is also illegal.

The former, however, is a practical example of the adage “give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach him to fish and feed him for life”. It is, therefore, a vital part of the rehabilitation process. 

Types of prison activity

Prisons are inspected on the ‘out of cell’ time they make available to prisoners. This activity in England and Wales is mandatory. It could be in the form of education, or simply working in a prison kitchen.

What we do know is that there is increasing activity within industries that are introduced from the outside world. This form of working in a prison largely replicates real-life working environments.

That’s not all…

Prisoners receive an enhanced wage and can take part in saving schemes that will benefit them in the future. They can spend their hard-earned savings on rent bonds, or purchase tools for post-release employment. Prisoners can also support their families with financial struggles on the outside.

How do you classify meaningful work?

The work done in prisons must pass certain tests, including the criteria that it be “meaningful”. This somewhat open-ended definition is often interpreted as work that will add value - not be mind numbing - and focuses on future post-release rehabilitation.

Work that is meaningful can build skills and instil a sense of responsibility in prisoners. It will better equip them to compete for work in the labour market into which they will be released, reducing the risk of reoffending.

Introducing the Seetec Justice Prison Offer

At Seetec, we’re working with socially responsible employers and introducing them to the idea of production behind bars. We call this approach the Seetec Justice Prison Offer.

Real work plus the additional support of an employment coach moves men and women closer to job entry. For many employers that have never set foot in a prison before, the experience can be surprising:

“The first time Nigel took me into a prison I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was a workforce who were prepared to engage and a prison management team that was forward thinking and helpful” (Adrian Potts, Director, Remade with Hope)

Leading the way in corporate social responsibility

For companies who take their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy seriously working with prisoners can add significantly more value than simply recycling ink cartridges. The Financial Times defines CSR in the following way:

“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.”  (The Financial Times)

Julian Kilmartin, one of the company directors we introduced to the Seetec Justice Prison Offer, sums up this position well:

“For us, the Seetec Justice Prison Offer is about preventing the next victim. Every man or woman we introduce to the world of work is potentially many crimes less as they can earn a living wage, and have their time filled”

To find out more about Seetec’s rehabilitation and criminal justice services – including the Seetec Justice Prison Offer – please get in touch.