Just one in nine let out of prison find work in six weeks

Just one in nine ex-inmates are in employment within six weeks of being released from Featherstone prison, new figures reveal.

Prison reform charity The Howard League said jails across England and Wales are "turning out toddlers", with offenders unable to learn basic life skills behind bars, leaving many struggling to find or keep jobs on the outside.

It was a similar story at Oakwood in Wolverhampton, Drake Hall in Eccleshall, and Brinsford in Wolverhampton. Only Stafford prison met its target – one of the few prisons nationally to do so.

Ministry of Justice data shows just 11.1 per cent of prisoners released from HMP Featherstone were employed within six weeks between October 1 last year and March 31 this year.

That was just shy of the prison's target of ​13.8 per cent for the period.

Over at HMP Oakwood just 12.8 per cent of prisoners released were employed within six weeks during the same time frame – the prison had a target of 15.6 per cent.

At HMP Brinsford it was 10.6 per cent – below their target of 16.7 per cent. And Drake Hall is was 14.7 per cent, below the target of 16 per cent.

Over at HMP Stafford 11.6 per cent of prisoners were employed within six weeks of being released – slightly above the target of 9.5 per cent.

The figures come from annual statistics which review the performance of prisons on a range of measures, with targets set locally and nationally.

For its performance in post-release employment, prisons Featherstone, Oakwood and Drake Hall were all rated with a low score of two out of five, meaning they are "of concern".

Serious concern

However Brinsford was rated at one out of five, meaning it is "of serious concern". Stafford was rated at three, which is "acceptable".

Across England and Wales just five prisons achieved their targets, making employment within six weeks one of the poorest performing measures.

Frances Crook, chief executive of The Howard League, warned such targets can be problematic, as many ex-prisoners struggle to retain jobs when they get them.

She said: "There is a huge effort to get people a job on release from prison.

"But more than 80 per cent of prisoners are not employed in a PAYE (pay as you earn) job one year on. The reason is because prisons don't prepare people for the real world.

"It's basic life skills such as getting yourself up in the morning, having a shower and some breakfast and being work ready, that prisoners are not capable of.

"They are turning out toddlers."

She added that some inmates learning skilled work behind bars are not doing long enough hours to prepare them for a real job on release.

A Prison Service spokesman said: "Broadening access to training and work is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and keep the public safe.

“We already work with around 400 employers who provide opportunities to offenders, and we are reducing the time certain convictions stay on someone’s criminal record to allow those who have turned their backs on crime a fair chance of employment.”

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