Norfolk prison scheme will give offenders a better future
PUBLISHED: 09:17 19 October 2015 | UPDATED: 09:17 19 October 2015
Copyright: Archant 2015
It can be an almost impossible task for ex-inmates to secure employment after being inside. But Wayland Prison is aiming to change that by inviting employers to give offenders a second chance. Luke Powell reports.
Behind the barbed wire fences and high walls of Wayland Prison are scenes more familiar to a construction site than a category C jail.
In a secure outdoor courtyard inmates can be seen swinging pickaxes, laying paving and digging holes to create a streetscape area.
Meanwhile, in its numerous workshops, groups of prisoners are learning how to install plumbing and wire a home.
It is all part of an initiative led by Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner Stephen Bett to give offenders a better chance at gaining employment when they are released into society.
Governor Steve Rodford said: “There are some very talented people who have had some very unfortunate backgrounds and it is a credit to them that they are trying to carry on.
“You have to realise that some of our offenders will be released into the community in Norfolk and Suffolk and if we get them into work, it might reduce crime in the areas where you live yourself.”
While inside, inmates have the opportunity to gain basic qualifications in a variety of trades at Wayland.
Each offender is risk assessed and the prison, which houses 1000 inmates, has the ability to let them out on a temporary licence for up to five days at a time.
Mr Rodford said that the system gives employers the chance to try out the inmates before taking them on permanently
He added: “The idea is to get people back in normal society without them ever coming back to us. And if you take on an offender here, you have a try before you buy situation.
“They have a lot to lose if they do something wrong.”
Despite being located near Watton, only 20pc of its offenders are from Norfolk and Suffolk – the majority hail from London. Around half of those inside are under the age of 29.
The police and crime commissioner’s office has been working to try and get more employers to take on ex-offenders across the county.
Vicky Day, rehabilitation co-ordinator at the commissioner’s office, said: “Each month there are approximately 200 offenders released from Norfolk prisons. But if an offender has employment upon release, the likelihood of them re-offending is halved.
Quoting national research, she said that the total cost to the taxpayer of someone re-offending was £65,000. If they were a prolific criminal, she said that cost would soar.
“It is about how we can change the perception of employers to get them to start working with offenders,” she said. “Organisations who are employing them are finding they are very hard workers and loyal.”
Norfolk County Council and Norse Group were among the local employers being guided around the prison.
Samantha Delcoure, Norse recruitment manager, said: “For me and for our business, I am really excited to see the level of quality and skills that the prisoners are getting and I see lots of opportunity in that.”
Nick Tupper, highways maintenance manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “We do take on a number of apprentices and there is generally a demand in the highways market. At the moment we are looking at how we can support this initiative.”
Are you a business employing ex-offenders? Call Luke Powell on 01603 772684