Prisoner Pay

On Monday, the Government brought in the Prisoners' Earning Act.  Low-risk prisoners who work in the community to prepare for their eventual release will see up to 40 per cent of their net weekly wages over £20 go to services which support victims of crime.

These new measures will initially apply to around 500 risk assessed prisoners, like those at HMP Ford in West Sussex, who hold down real jobs in the community and receive the minimum wage.

But we want to see the same principle of supporting victims applied to prisoners inside jails, where there should be more work.   We're currently legislating in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to see that happen.

For too long the financial burden of repairing the damage done by crime has fallen to the taxpayer alone.  By bringing into force the Prisoners' Earnings Act, this Government is making a significant and overdue change.

Our new approach could generate up to £1 million for Victim Support, an independent charity which delivers services to help the victims and witnesses of crime. 

The charity's Chief Executive has welcomed the new scheme, saying that "we should celebrate that, for once, we've got an initiative that puts victims at the heart of the criminal justice system.  With this initiative, the victims will recognise that the Government is doing something to make offenders put back some of what they've done to society."

Some have expressed a concern that docking wages is unfair or will lead to prisoners opting out of work.  But offenders will still keep the lion's share of their pay. And the work that these prisoners undertake - giving them a taste of life after prison - is about more than just money. 

After all, the average prisoner has already received over ten previous convictions before he is jailed.  Some would question whether they should earn money at all.

I think it does make sense, not least to prepare them for the world of work and responsibility.  But it's equally right to make offenders pay financial reparation to victims and take personal responsibility for their crimes.

Christopher N Howarth