HM Prison and Probation Service is rolling out employment advisory boards across the prison estate after a trial successfully placed ex-offenders in stable jobs and reduced reoffending.
Leaders from firms including Lotus Cars, Sodexo and Cook are chairing the new boards which act as a link between jails and local employers, encouraging offenders to use their time inside to learn the skills needed for jobs upon release.
The Ministry of Justice said the scheme is crucial in tackling the £18 billion cost of reoffending, as ex-offenders in steady jobs within six months of leaving prison are less likely to commit further crime.
Its analysis of the impact of employment on ex-offenders sentenced for less than one year found that the re-offending rate was 9.4 percentage points lower than for those who were not employed. For sentences lasting one year or more, the one year re-offending rate was 5.6 percentage points lower.
Employment advisory boards have already been established in 20 prisons, and will be up and running in all 91 “resettlement” prisons in England and Wales by April 2023, according to the MoJ.
Justice secretary Dominic Raab said: “It’s a true win-win, allowing us to boost public protection and save the taxpayer money, while providing the reliable staff businesses need to drive the British economy.”
In a survey, 90% of employers who have hired ex-offenders said they are “motivated, reliable, good at their job and trustworthy”. The research also showed that more than 80% of the public think that businesses who give offenders a second chance are making a positive contribution to society.
HMP Wandsworth’s board launched last May, and is chaired by Rosie Brown, chief executive of ready-meal company Cook. The board was the brainchild of James Timpson, chief executive of Timpson Group, one of the largest employers of ex-offenders in the UK. Approximately 10% of its workforce is made up of people who have criminal convictions.
Since Wandsworth created its board, 98 prisoners have worked with the advisory service, 76 have received job offers and 33 are successfully in a job.
Brown said: “I am proud to work for a company that has a long track record of supporting prison leavers into employment and I know from personnel experience that some of our best and most loyal employees have criminal records – that’s not an obstacle to succeeding in life.”
As part of the Prisons White Paper published in December 2021, the government has committed to investing £200 million per year by 2023 on reducing reoffending, including on ex-offender employment schemes.