The Government is offering commercial property businesses incentives to hire ex-prisoners, and keep them in work for two years or more, under a new work programme to entice them onto the straight and narrow.
Commercial properties in England, Scotland and Wales will be eligible to participate in the scheme, which automatically enrols prisoners nearing the end of their sentences, who are eligible for Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), onto the work programme. The scheme is designed for the long-term unemployed and those who are deemed most at risk of having difficulty finding work.
Speaking of challenge of getting ex-offenders into work, Chris Grayling, Employment Minister stated: “Getting former offenders into work is absolutely crucial to tackling our crime challenge. The rate of reoffending in Britain is far too high and we have to reduce it.
“In the past we just sent people out on to the same streets where they offended in the first place with virtually no money and very little support. We’re now working to change that.”
Crispin Blunt, Prisons Minister added: “Referring offenders to the Work Programme straight from custody will ensure that they get help and support to find work as they leave custody, when they are currently most likely to start reoffending.”
According to official statistics, since 2008 only 50 per cent ex-inmates in England and Wales have found work, with the remaining half of ex-offenders still claiming JSA two years after being released.
But under the programme these figures could be slashed, as firms can start offering support and advice regarding employment opportunities as soon as the inmate is realised.
As well as getting ex-inmates into work, the Government is hoping that the scheme will reduce the risk of criminals reoffending, as Mr Blunt expressed: “Getting ex-prisoners into work at the earliest opportunity will help them stop reoffending.”
This will also combat the issue of overcrowding prisons, which at the moment stands at 87,787 inmates – only 392 less than the all time record. The Criminal Justice Alliance wants prisons to be used for “serious, persistent and violent offenders for whom no alternative sanction is appropriate” only. So by address the less serious crimes and re-introducing ex-offenders back into society, the overcrowding issue should soften.
In return for a company’s compliance on the programme, commercial properties will be offered £5,600 for each inmate they employ for two years or more. But do you think companies will prefer employing an ex-inmate over an unemployed law abiding citizen, just for a cash incentive?