03:51, May 28 241 0 theguardian.com

2019-05-28 03:51:06
More prisoners to get jobs on day release as government eases rules

Rules on temporary release from prison are being eased in a drive to improve offenders’ job prospects.

Ministers said the move would give inmates more opportunities to work and train while serving their sentence, boosting their chances of securing immediate employment on release.

The Ministry of Justice announced that inmates at open or women’s prisons would be eligible to undertake paid work on day release after they have passed a risk assessment. Previously this would only be allowed if an inmate was within 12 months of release.

The changes to the release on temporary licence (ROTL) scheme are part of government efforts to reduce reoffending rates, estimated to cost the UK £15bn every year.

ROTL rules were tightened after a review by the former justice secretary Christopher Grayling after the convicted killer Ian McLoughlin murdered again while on day release in 2013 from HMP Spring Hill in Buckinghamshire, where he was serving a 25-year jail term for killing two men he believed were paedophiles.

The justice secretary, David Gauke, responding to concerns about the rule changes, said: “Well over 99% of all releases occur without any breach whatsoever, and where there are breaches, overwhelmingly they’re things like people being late. So it’s not about serious offences. We believe we can put in place a through risk assessment, that’s what’s working at the moment and I think we can continue with that.”

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “If we want prisoners not to reoffend, we need to rehabilitate them. The evidence and common sense suggests that prisoners who go into work after they leave prison are less likely to reoffend.

“And the evidence and common sense shows that if prisoners have had the opportunity to go to work on a daily basis then return to prison, and so at the point of their final release from prison they are acclimatised to work, then the evidence shows that they’re more likely to be in work. This is about reducing crime because it will reduce reoffending.”

Under the changes, a restriction on ROTL in the first three months after transferring to open conditions would be lifted, while overnight release from open prisons could now be considered at an earlier stage.

Statistics show there were 366,868 incidences of release on temporary licence in England and Wales last year, involving 7,724 people.

The 2018 figures were up year-on-year but remained below those for 2013, when there were more than half a million incidences involving more than 11,000 prisoners.

Plans to expand the use of workplace ROTL were set out in the MoJ’s education and employment strategy last year. The department said 230 additional businesses had joined its flagship offender work-placement scheme.

Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, welcomed the ROTL changes.

He said: “More than three years after it was first promised, the government has finally delivered a significant shift towards the greater use of temporary release, recognising its proven benefits in terms of preparing prisoners for a crime-free life.

“Prisoners, employers, families and the public at large will all benefit from these changes, building on an exceptional track record of success.

“There is much further to go – prisoners are serving longer sentences than ever before, and these changes will mainly benefit only the minority who have managed to get to an open prison towards the very end of their time inside.

“Ministers should not wait a further three years before taking the next step.”