From Airstrip 1:
Ministry of Justice characterises this as a rehabilitation scheme, and says that prisoners will earn a minimum of £3 per day. A Welsh call centre called Becoming Green recently made headlines for firing non-prison labourers even as it brought in extra day-release prisoners to work at the £3/day rate.
Ethically there are a whole truck load of reasons prision work is problematic.
1. Calling work rehabilitation or “training” ignores that said training is not easily called upon on release. One is hardly going to put a prison job on one’s resumé. As for “rehabilitation” … work isn’t rehabilitation, it does nothing to address the socio-psychological factors that led to a criminal offence.
2. The kinds of work being offered seldom provide transferrable skills that will help someone transition into meaningful employment.
3. The government offering prison labour to subsidize private industry and bilking non-incarcerated unemployed out of jobs only serves to create or worsen the situation for vulnerable populations, who, in desperation, end up commiting a criminal act and find themselves in prison. What should be happening is the government — if it feels compelled to subsidize something — should subsidize the labour market to provide a real living wage to the aforementioned vulnerable populations.
Even if the work is voluntary, the conditions in which it is offered render it no choice at all. In the world behind prison walls the choice between boredom and occupation is not much of a choice at all.