05:18, May 28 54 0 theguardian.com

2019-05-28 05:18:05
Prisoners to get more work opportunities as government eases rules

Rules on temporary release from prison are being eased in an attempt 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 do paid work on day release after they had passed a risk assessment. Previously this was only allowed if an inmate was within 12 months of being released.

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 a year.

ROTL rules were tightened after a review by the then justice secretary, Christopher Grayling, after the convicted killer Ian McLoughlin murdered a man in 2013 while on day release from HMP Spring Hill in Buckinghamshire.

Responding to concerns about the rule changes, the justice secretary, David Gauke, said on Tuesday: “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 thorough 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 … 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, and overnight release from open prisons could be considered at an earlier stage.

There were 366,868 releases 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 ROTLs 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 more businesses had joined its flagship offender work-placement scheme.

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

“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,” he said.

“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.”

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