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January 08, 2006

Prison Labour.

I’m slightly conflicted about this idea that prisoners should make minimum wage for the jobs they do in prison.

Inmates of a British prison are, for the first time, being paid the national minimum wage as part of an experiment to reduce the rate of reoffending.

Six prisoners in the south of England are taking part in a pilot scheme organised by the campaigning group the Howard League for Penal Reform under which they are earning at least £5.05 an hour for skilled work at a printing press - compared with the average prison wage of £7 to £12 a week - and are paying income tax and national insurance.

On the one hand, great idea. They earn some money which means they have some savings when they get out, learn a trade perhaps, build up self worth, all those sorts of good things.

But, aren’t we a little uncomfortable with the idea of buying things made with prison labour? Don’t we campaign against this sort of thing in China? Then again, buying things made by people in jail making less than minimum wage would be even worse on that score.

I think my confusion is partly driven by that Robert Redford film, Brubaker. All too easy for corruption to set in.

January 8, 2006 in jobs | Permalink


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Ok, are they going to be charged for their accomodation then?

What about other costs involved in keeping them banged up?

Given the cost to 'society' in keeping someone in prison could this mean that they are released owing a ginormous debt?

If they are earning then it seems only fair.

Posted by: Chris harper | Jan 8, 2006 10:06:41 AM

there is a difference between "Prison work" and "Prison Labour"; the labour that we protest against in China is the sort that you aren't allowed to say "no thanks" to.

Posted by: dsquared | Jan 8, 2006 11:52:44 AM

As Daniel says. And prisoners in British jails can already work, typically at far below minimum wage, on one or other sort of tedious employment (sewing mailbags is the classic example).

Posted by: Chris Lightfoot | Jan 8, 2006 12:01:10 PM

Or feeding cds into wire mesh sctaching machines.

Posted by: Mark Holland | Jan 8, 2006 1:30:02 PM

Can't have them earning more than bloggers, can we?


Tim adds: I think, given the figures for current prison wages, they are.

Posted by: james C | Jan 8, 2006 2:59:05 PM

I regularly lose work to the US federal prison industry due to federal mandates and their low labor rates. The US fed pen system has a well developed business arm-


Of course, you get what you pay for. We have installed engines overhauled by the prison system into army trucks and have been amazed at the high failure rate. I guess you get what you pay for and what do you expect from a locked up labor force? I often wonder about the overall damage done to the army by being forced to purchase from the prison industry. Oh, well. It's not like we are fighting a war or anything, are we?

Posted by: Greg | Jan 8, 2006 11:11:58 PM

I would have a problem if it was forced labour, or the money went to Gordon. It does seem that the US system is flawed as well. But if the cons were offered the chance to set up a proper business offering competitive services to the world at large then it could be beneficial. They would be able to earn some money for when they were released and hopefully they would learn some more socially acceptable skills for use on the outside.

Unfortunately I have doubts about any government sponsored programme, but one can live in hope.


Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jan 9, 2006 9:01:34 AM