UK Politics

Prisoners could work in call centres in job opportunity drive

Prison inmate
Image caption The government hopes to reduce reoffending rates by making prisoners more employable

The Ministry of Justice is considering setting up call centres in prisons to increase prisoner work opportunities.

The plan is "one thing that could be considered" as part of efforts to make prisoners more employable when they finish their sentences.

No call centres are currently being run in prisons, but ministers are not ruling out such a scheme in the future.

Inmates already carry out a range of paid tasks including laundry services and printing.

The government wants to "transform prisons into industrious places of productive work" and make a 40-hour working week the norm.

'Sensitive information'

It hopes to reduce reoffending rates by making prisoners more employable when they are released.

A new scheme, One3one Solutions - which replaced the Prisons Industries Unit earlier this year - has been tasked with growing the amount of work available in prisons.

It works with over 190 organisations which pay prisoners to carry out work for them.

These include companies such as DHL, the high street chain Timpson and Amaryllis, which has used prisoners to help provide recycled furniture and fittings for the Olympic Games.

BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said the MoJ acknowledged a number of questions would need answering before it would be appropriate to set up a call centre in a prison, given it would mean prisoners coming into direct contact with the public and, potentially, handling sensitive information.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "Prisoners who learn the habit of real work inside prison are less likely to commit further crime when they are released.

"For that reason the Prisons Service is looking at a number of potential schemes to increase work opportunities in prisons. However, no call centres are being run from prisons.

"All contracts with outside employers must comply with a strict code of practice which sets out that prisoners cannot be used to replace existing jobs in the community.

"Prisoner wages, for those in closed prisons, are set by prison governors and companies have no control over the level of payment."

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