With this government the devil is always in the detail…
Even when you think you are getting something good with this government there is always a fly in the ointment. Take the proposal made today by Kenneth Clarke that prisoners should be allowed to work a full day and receive a fair wage. No doubt this will make the Conservative right insanely happy while at the same time, somewhat paradoxically, endearing to The Guardian. LabourList even has an article calling for Labour to be a ‘sensible opposition’ and support these proposals.
It states that the Howard League for Penal Reform have supported this reform for some time and that it will not take any jobs away from the community because “the Howard League for Penal Reform has already stated that this scheme should be aimed at sectors and industries that are already leaving the UK.”. Hang-on. The Howard League aren’t running this policy. The Conservative Party is and when you look at it there is plenty there to turn the stomach. First, I have to say that I find it bitterly ironic that projects like the Future Jobs Fund have been axed and across the board the incentives are being removed for businesses to employ people yet this government can somehow find the money to encourage private firms into our jails.
Also, given the coloration between poverty and some crime would it perhaps not be a better idea to spend money on training schemes and funding apprenticeships for people before they find their way into jail?
From the NHS to our prisons the name of the game is asset stripping and the enrichment of the ‘private sector’ which will most likely mean in practice the friends and close associates of the Conservative Party. However, this is not just about the injustice committed against those who are ‘at liberty’ but also about the prisoners themselves who presumably will not be subject to the same protections an ordinary workforce would and be unable to collectively bargain. Will they be given rights to join a union? They certainly should be if they are to be given the authentic workplace experience which includes rights as well as hard graft. Also, I find the argument for denying prisoners a vote much harder to make given this measure. If they are to be properly rehabilitated as this scheme intends then a certain level of participation in civil society should be allowed and there is also that old saying – ‘no taxation without representation’.
I am inclined to agree that Labour should support the principle behind this proposal but it should also be weary of the devil thinly disguised within the detail.