Saturday, March 26, 2011

More Work

I recall, not long ago, when Ken Clarke was declaiming about the "rehabilitation revolution" and, particularly, the dream of giving prisoners genuine work and training.
That was at the Tory Party Conference. The Green Paper later issued is a miserable, threadbare version. It is a travesty, lacking in either aspiration or inspiration for genuine change.
What is planned for us is more work. Not good, useful work though - only work that won't be done by workers outside prison. There is no interest in enforcing minimum wage legislation in prisons. Added together, this is an invitation for companies to use prisoners as cheap labour to do work no-one with a choice would touch.
This, it seems, it meant to help us inculcate a "work ethic". Um, slave labour and the "work ethic" are hardly good bedfellows, except in the feeble minds of Ministry of Justice bureaucrats. It is insulting.
Added to this, a chunk of our meagre wage will be subtracted at source to be put into some Victims Fund. So...more crap work for crap money, on pains of punishment, with some money also being taken from us.
As now, it will be possible to serve a lengthy prison sentence and leave having learned no useful skill and without a pot to
piss in.
If this is part of the Rehabilitation Revolution, it's time the sans-culottes put the cover back on the guillotine and buggered off home. It was a false alarm - no change is happening.


  1. Such liars and deceivers are the politicians, from what you describe the situation here is becoming more like the gulags of Siberia or the chain gangs of the US.

    The politicians double speak their way into power and then viciously attack the ordinary and poor folk who believed some of thier clap trap.

    I just hope that David Cameron and the rest of the band are listening to the big society out on the streets today in London in opposition to all they stand for, and if you listen keenly to the protesters, they are saying that there is an alternative to cut backs to welfare, jobs and so on. That alternative is to cut the bankers bonusses, cut spending on trident, police the tax evaders, tax the rich, and many other similar money raising ideas.

    I just lost my job, our whole organisation got shut down with a view to opening it up again at some point in the future using the resources we built up over the last twenty years. They would instead be 'employing' volunteers to do the work that we used to do for a pittance, all in the name of honouring 'cuts'.

    Maybe there will be a use for those guillotines again one day for the big society ... To enable the people to have their rights to work (and their rights to pensions, and disablity benefits). To work in a dignified manner and not be humiliated or abused just because they are the ones who actually do the necessary work in life.

    One more cut! with the aid of the guillotine ...

  2. Ben is right. At the Social Market Foundation rehabilitation revolution conference, jails minister Crispin Blunt said - "Our ambition is for prisons is to become places of hard work and industry, minimising unproductive time spent inside. Offenders will work hard and be subjected to the discipline of regular working hours" - This is all very well, but what happened to the actual 'Ken Clark dream' of genuine work, adequate pay, and training for prisoners? I suggest the 'dream' has been 'hijacked' - and replaced with a potential nightmare!

  3. Anonymous, I am so sorry you have lost your job. I speak as a pre 'Big Society' volunteer. This government is trying to make out it is bringing in something new. People all over the UK have been giving their time and skills for others for hundreds of years. Now though, people like you are being replaced by volunteers simply to save money, and I fear that many caring people are being exploited. There is a place for volunteers who genuinely have their own means and time they can give, but you are quite right; people engaged in serving the community and caring for others deserve the dignity of a decent living wage as much as anyone else.

    Ben, it is a real disappointment that the Green Paper fails to deliver. So short-sighted too, as lives and money will keep being wasted until someone has the vision to invest in real rehabilitation measures in prisons.

    These two topics confirm that 'the poor' are most certainly not a priority in our society, to our shame.

  4. @Jules These people you speak of won't be volunteers in the true sense of the word, they'll be like Anon, possibly now on benefits and forced to work for the state handout.

  5. Ben is sadly only too right. And where there is some useful training provided, it is often done so under the guise of moving existing jobs into prisons. A recent example is Speedy Hire who have closed 37 depots and 'shed' 300 or so jobs in the recent downturn but are doing nicely thank you, employing around 100 prisoners in 4 prisons - HMP Glenochil in Scotland (40 prisoners) and HMPs Erlestoke, Garth and Pentonville in England. In Glenochil the prisoners currently earn up to 56p an hour for their time and efforts.

  6. Ben, i would like to know what you think of companies like Summit Media, who run a company, from a prison, and pay inmates £15 a week, (while the taxpayer foots the bill for keeping the prisoner in food/lodgings).

    I remember girls working for M&S while in cookham wood, for 36p an hour, folding cardboard to slot into those things that divide peoples shopping at the till. I refused to do it, but then i had private cash sent in every week, and some of them relied on this money for their spends? It's a moral dilema i've never resolved in my head. Though when M&S tell you they use 90% british labour, they don't tell you it is exploiting prisoners in the uk.

    Also, posters above have mentiond volunteers, fine if that's what you want to do in your spare time, but i really feel for the youngsters, who have student debt, then are forced to work as interns for free, and to top it all, have to find about £30k for a deposit on a flat.

  7. I am struggling to make sense of this blog. You say no change but then describe one. i.e. that prisoners will have to work rather than do nothing.

    Surely that is a good thing. You can't expect to get paid a proper working wage unless you are going to pay for food and accommodation like proper working people have to. And surely a small contribution to victims is a good thing isn't it?

    So what if the work is a bit repetitive - you are in prison not on holiday...

  8. @Eric, Prisoners have always worked, for pocket money wages, in the kitchen, (preparing food for other inmates) in the gardens, for the sake of having some flower beds for the visiters to look at. Sewing, making the track suit/ t-shirts prisoners wear. cleaning the prison landings. But now, business have come in, and want their work done, for the same pocket money wages.

    In Blanytyre house, not far from me, inmates were working as bus drivers. (i am not sure if they have to pay tax and n.i.) But the employed bus drivers were moaning, as they couldn't save their money, they all had families and bills to pay.

  9. It is the quality of the work involved. If it actually had some benefits to the work, ie trained for placements when prisoners leave prison, a trade that would help them with resettlement, 'contribte' to society, then that would be a step forward. At the moment it is private companies who profit from this slave labour, and we the public are still paying.

  10. You might be interested to know Anonymous that Ben in fact worked for Summit, doing SWOT Analysis (see: when he was at Rye Hill and they still operated from there.