Leeds prisoners could work as bin men

New governor of Leeds Prison, Susan Kennedy
New governor of Leeds Prison, Susan Kennedy
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INMATES at a Yorkshire prison could be given jobs as bin men under proposals being considered.

Prisoners at Leeds Prison, in Armley, who are nearing the 
end of their sentences could be let out on day-release to help with refuse collections in a bid to assist their transition to life on the outside.

The idea is being actively considered by Leeds City Council.

The proposals has been mooted by Susan Kennedy, the new governor of the prison, during talks with officials from Safer Leeds – a partnership between the council and police.

Ms Kennedy said: “This could be an ideal way of providing offenders with work experience.

“We were talking about what role the council could play with rehabilitation and I said, ‘You must need bin men’. I’m setting up a waste management qualification in the prison and I thought that this could be an ideal way of providing our offenders with work experience.”

Coun Peter Gruen, chair of Safer Leeds, said the authority is keen on the move but stressed there is “significant work to be done to assess all the options and implications”.

“Bridging the gap between prison and getting into employment on release is a key component of the work being done across the city to help break the cycle of re-offending,” he said.

“Employers – including the council – offering work experience with close supervision can give those nearing the end of their sentences the motivation and confidence they need to turn their lives around and divert them from further criminality.”

Ms Kennedy, who took charge of Armley jail in October, said employment opportunities were vital to offenders’ chances of staying on the right side of the law after prison.

In her first interview since she became governor, Ms Kennedy said: “Employers needn’t be scared of employing ex-offenders. They are coming back into our communities whether we like it or not. I would rather they were in gainful employment and were learning how to become responsible citizens than were being written off.”

Ms Kennedy, 52, was born and brought up in the Leeds area and went to Batley Girls’ Grammar School.

She worked in the probation service for 10 years and was a governor of Buckley Hall prison in Rochdale and deputy governor at Styal women’s prison in Cheshire before taking the job in Leeds. The category B prison holds up to 1,212 offenders. She said while some cannot be rehabilitated, the “vast majority” can and their time in custody should be used to teach them employability skills.

She plans to set up a “resettlement village” at the prison, for charities, employers and other organisations to help inmates prepare for release. “One thing we know is that having a stable job reduces people’s chances of getting back into crime,” she said.

Julie Thornton, employment services development manager for West Yorkshire Probation, said: “Employment can reduce the rate of reoffending by up to 50 per cent and is one of the most important factors in changing people’s lives.

“Any initiative that helps employers realise the benefits of working with offenders and ex-offenders is a good thing.”