An additional 230 organisations – including Greene King and Pret A Manger – have committed to hiring ex-offenders, as the government allows more prisoners to take temporary release to participate in work placements.
Under plans revealed by justice secretary David Gauke today (28 May), prisons will be given greater freedom to grant temporary release to offenders to work and train with employers, which he believed will increase their chances of securing work once their sentence has been served.
Release on temporary licence allows offenders to spend a short amount of time – usually a day or overnight – in the community, normally towards the end of their sentence. Under the Ministry of Justice’s plans, prisons will be given greater autonomy to grant licences for paid work, following a risk assessment.
More than 500 organisations have registered to work with prisons to boost employment prospects for offenders and reduce re-offending. According to the MoJ ex-offenders in employment are up to nine percentage points less likely to commit further crime, while allowing prisoners to spend time in the community before release significantly reduces their likelihood of reoffending.
Greene King will employ 50 former offenders by the end of 2019. Communications director Greg Sage said: “We’ve started working with ex-offenders and people coming towards the end of their sentence because it allows us to secure a pipeline of talent coming into our business, at the same time as helping people start again as they leave prison.
“In the hospitality industry there is a nationwide shortage of kitchen staff – kitchen managers and chefs particularly – that we at Greene King are not immune to.”
Eight in 10 (81%) organisations that employ ex-offenders agreed that it has helped their business, while 79% of people think businesses employing ex-offenders are making a positive contribution to society, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the MoJ.
Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Broadening access to training and work opportunities is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and ultimately keep the public safe.
“Many organisations are recognising the value of giving offenders a second chance, and we have carefully listened to their feedback before making these changes.
“I urge more businesses to join this movement and help ex-offenders turn their backs on crime for good.”
The move follows the launch of the New Futures Network – a new specialist part of the Prison Service – in 2018, which aims to build partnerships between prisons and employers. It is hoped employing ex-offenders will help fill local skills gaps.
Peter Dawson, director of campaign group the Prison Reform Trust, said the changes were a “welcome step in the right direction”, but they would only benefit those who had been moved to an open prison towards the end of their sentence.
“More than three years after it was first promised, the government has finally delivered a significant shift towards the greater use of temporary release, recognising its proven benefits in terms of preparing prisoners for a crime free life. Prisoners, employers, families and the public at large will all benefit from these changes, building on an exceptional track record of success,” he said.
The release on temporary licence rules were tightened in 2014 following a review by former justice secretary Chris Grayling. This was after a convicted killer, who had been allowed out of prison for the day, stabbed a man to death.