Minister visits Norfolk prison blazing trail for offender education

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous MP and (R) governor Paul Cawkwell at the employer engagement event wh

Prisons Minister Andrew Selous MP and (R) governor Paul Cawkwell at the employer engagement event which was held at Wayland Prison. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

A Norfolk prison which is blazing the trail in providing training for its prisoners to ensure they find employment on release has opened its doors to employers.

On Thursday HMP Wayland, near Watton, held an networking event to show employers some of the training available to inmates at the Category C prison, from brick-laying, plumbing and electronics to mechanics, retail and music production.

Of the 1,000 prisoners at Wayland, 85 per cent are under the age of 50 and will need to rejoin the labour market when they are released.

The event was attended by Prisons Minister Andrew Selous MP and the prison's Governor Paul Cawkwell.

Mr Selous said: 'There is clear evidence that re-offending is reduced if people get into work.

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'I am ambitious to see as many prisoners as possible going into a job on release.

'The feedback we get from employers is that offenders are some of their most loyal and committed employees.

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'I think this is a real opportunity to marry up the fantastic training and education that is going on in the prison with meeting the labour and skills shortages facing our country.'

Mr Cawkwell said: 'The re-offending statistics are frightening, and I know that if I do nothing I am helping a spiral of crime. My role is to rehabilitate people and get them back in the community.

'Norfolk is blessed with excellent training providers and we're lucky to have businesses who are open to employing offenders.'

One prisoner, a self-confessed 'career criminal', described how his four-year sentence at Wayland helped him turn his life around. He now works at Britannia Café in Norwich, which primarily employs offenders.

'Before, I was just put away without any rehabilitation. Coming to Wayland was the turning point,' he said.

'Without the courses I had access to here, I wouldn't be where I am today. Programmes like this really do change your life.

'I'm just so happy, I'm doing a job I really enjoy in an industry I never thought I'd have a chance to work in.'

Davina Tanner OBE, CEO of Britannia Enterprises, began work with HMP Norwich and later HMP Wayland to staff the Britannia Café.

She said: 'I'm blessed because I have a business which is making an impact in the community – not many businesses can say that.

'You can help stop the cycle of re-offending by giving someone the chance to turn their life around.'

Mr Cawkwell praised Ms Tanner as a 'catalyst' in helping more offenders into employment. 'She enables us to bring about the change we want to see,' he said.

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