Oakwood and Drake Hall inmates working in prison call centres

 
HMP Oakwood The Ministry of Justice said inmates could not see sensitive information

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Convicted criminals in the West Midlands are being paid to work in call centres inside their prisons.

Inmates at HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton, and Drake Hall, in Staffordshire, carry out market research for insurance companies.

The Centre for Crime Prevention said the project was "incredibly naive".

But the Ministry of Justice said it was a pilot scheme which may be rolled out further if it is successful, and added the prisoners have risk assessments.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: "We do not want prisoners sitting idle in their cells when they should be working towards their rehabilitation.

Sensitive information

"We prepare offenders for work inside prison so they can get a job after release - this reduces the chances that they will reoffend in the future, meaning lower crime and fewer victims.

"All prisoners working in call centres are risk-assessed and stringent security measures are in place, with calls supervised and recorded."

She said the small pilots are being monitored and would only be increased to other prisons if they were deemed successful.

She added the workers cannot see sensitive information about the people they are calling, such as addresses.

The phone numbers of customers are also protected as all calls are routed through a computer.

"At no point can they ask the value of items, record data outside of the secure systems or deviate from a carefully-worded script," she added.

The spokeswoman could not say whether any other prisons have similar schemes, nor which companies run the ones mentioned above.

She confirmed the work is taking place within the confines of the prisons.

On their websites, both facilities say work opportunities are available for inmates.

'Risk assessed'

Alex Hewson from the Prison Reform Trust said they supported the scheme.

"We encourage this type of scheme because it develops skills that may prove to be useful for the workplace generally, and gives prisoners a greater chance of getting employment on release," he said.

"I can understand why there may be concerns but the scheme is risk-assessed and I think it's really important those people get opportunities to help them resettle."

A statement from G4S, which runs HMP Oakwood prison, said: "The call centre at HMP Oakwood is one of many partnerships we run with businesses, and enables prisoners to work towards apprenticeships and industry-recognised qualifications.

"All the prisoners are carefully security checked and interviewed before working in the centre, calls are made remotely by computer, and every conversation is closely monitored by supervisors. No information from the calls is stored and there is no way any personal information can be used for any criminal purposes."

Oakwood is a male prison and Drake Hall is for female offenders.

 

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  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 733.

    Although I welcome most forms of rehabilitation to help convicts back into society, I'm not sure if this is the right time to do this when we have a large number of unemployed looking for work. If this is a form of cheap labour then this should not be encouraged. Why not provide them with courses run by a college or enrol them on the Open University?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 732.

    If prisoners are to work it should be for the good of the community, NOT private companies profiting from cheap labour.

    If this cheap labour is to be exploited let it be to build affordable housing, work on other government schemes, infrastructure projects, roads, railways, rivers, canals and other community projects that have been cut under the current regime.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 696.

    I'm a huge supporter of this. Helps bring money into the prison system and helps offenders spend their time in a meaningful way and one which might help them find work once the leave prison which is crucial to cutting reoffending rates.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 459.

    The concerns people have about this creating a pool of cheap labour are valid. But two things strike me:

    - you can find reasons not to do most things if you look long and hard enough;

    - at some point these people will find themselves back in society.

    As long as it's done in low numbers and not moving towards large-scale cheap labour, I don't see a problem.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 455.

    If I find out which insurance companies are using prisoners, I'll not be using that company for insurance or anything else again. I don't want to have anything to do with criminals and the idea of one of them calling my house is abhorrent.

 

Comments 5 of 14

 

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