Pret A Manger is hiring prisoners to work serving sandwiches as part of a government scheme.
The scheme is designed to prevent inmates from reoffending after being released.
How will it work?
The chain is scheduled to offer work placements for inmates who have been deemed as low risk and able to work with the public.
The inmates will receive minimum wage for their work and also the potential to be taken on board for full time work once they’ve completed their sentence.
This is down to a huge expansion that the Release on Temporary License (RoTL) scheme that the Ministry of Justice announced yesterday (28 May).
What is the scheme?
The RoTL scheme was previously only available to inmates who were in the last 12 months of their sentence, but now any prisoner can be put forward that governors consider suitable. It is mainly aimed at inmates who are considered to be low risk and are in open prisons and women’s jails, after passing a risk assessment.
The scheme will see that they are paid at least minimum wage for their work, but the earnings can vary between employers.
The Ministry of Justice states, “This will allow them more opportunities to work and train with employers while serving their sentence and increase their chances of securing an immediate job on release.”
Does the scheme work?
According to research conducted by the Ministry of Justice, it’s been shown that inmates who have spent time working before their release significantly reduces the chances of reoffending.
“Ex-offenders in employment are up to nine percentage points less likely to commit a further crime,” The Ministry of Justice found.
Reoffending costs an estimated £15 billion for the British economy every year.
Data from the Ministry of Justice shows that one in eight employers state that taking on ex-offenders has helped their business, and two-thirds recommending that other businesses follow suit.
Secretary of State David Gauke said, “I believe passionately that through work, people can turn their backs on crime and start a new chapter in their lives.”
“I want more employers to look past an offender’s conviction to their future potential,” Gauke continued.
Other companies offering opportunities for ex-offenders
According to the Ministry of Justice, over 500 businesses have registered to work with prisons.
Some of those businesses include:
Halfords states, “As the UK continues to battle high reoffending rates, with 83 per cent of former prisoners remaining jobless a year after release, the UK's biggest cycling retailer is encouraging other businesses to follow suit and open up to the possibilities of an increase in the talent pool, lowering the cost of reoffending and contributing to safer communities for all.”
Halfords provides training and opportunities for those in custody. Upon their release, inmates working with Halfords can go on to pursue a three year technician programme which awards them with an Institute of Motor Industry NVQ3 and diploma.
Speaking to the Ministry of Justice, Andy McBride, Head of Resourcing and People Shared Services, said, “We have found that the level of retention of our graduates from the [prison] academy is higher than the level of retention of our normal employed sales floor workers.”
An employment programme was created by founder Richard Branson who “believes strongly that ex-offenders should not be ignored by potential employers because of their criminal record.”
Describing the work that Virgin has done with ex-offender Tammy on their website, Virgin says, “Tammy has been working full-time with the Revenue Protection Team at Virgin Trains on the west coast for the past 10 months, following an 18-month apprenticeship.
“She is one of 25 colleagues currently employed as part of Virgin Trains’ employment programme for ex-offenders which was established at the end of 2011.”
Andrew Sherwood, HR Director at Bernard Matthews, said to the Ministry of Justice, “I would recommend working with ex offenders. Our experience has been that the people who come to work with us have been loyal and hardworking.
“Many of them have moved on to become machine minders or forklift drivers. It’s a fantastic opportunity for them and it’s great for us as well.”
The major UK bakery initially became working with offenders in 2010, originally visiting women’s prisons to help develop their confidence with CV writing and interview techniques.
This eventually grew into offering work placements when they recognised the potential the inmates offered. The scheme has since been extended to include men’s prisons.
Roisin Curry, group director of the chain, said, “At Greggs, we believe that by not overlooking any potential employees because of their past, we can select the right person and develop them into their full potential.”
“I believe we will make our communities a better place and we can help these people that are furthest away from socialisation find the pathway back to feeling part of the community, contributing and therefore building their own self-esteem.”
Timpson employs more prison leavers than any other company in the UK according to The Information Hub.
The company provides training workshops in prisons that can allow up to 35 apprentices to be trained at any one time. Applicants who are successful will go on to work in a Timpson branch whilst still in custody and would be offered positions after being released.
Speaking to the Ministry of Justice, Chief Executive of Timpson, James Timpson, said, “When I first started employing people from prison my biggest concern was what people would think – and that’s not just colleagues I work with, but also our customers.
“Far more people come to our shops because of what we do and see it as a really positive thing.”
Timpson describes themselves as an equal opportunities employer - something they extend to include ex-offenders. They’re looking for “happy, confident and chatty individuals.”
If you have a business you’re interested in registering with the scheme, you can do so on the government website.
This article originally appeared on our sister site Edinburgh Evening News