In Brief

Brexit: prisoners ‘could fill immigration work gap’

Justice secretary says offenders would boost catering, agriculture and construction workforce

Prisoners on day release could be used to fill the workforce gap left by falling immigration after Brexit, the justice secretary, David Gauke, has suggested.

Sectors such as catering, farming and construction, which rely on a low-skilled casual workforce, are expected to be hardest hit by the UK’s departure from the EU.

But Gauke told prisoners at HMP Isis in south-east London this represented “an opportunity for both prisoners and employees, particularly those operating in these sectors”.

The new measures could see prisoners “go from behind bars to working in bars”, says The Sun.

The idea is part of wider education and employment strategy unveiled by the justice secretary to improve prisoners’ skills while in custody and increase their job opportunities when they leave.

Ministers are considering National Insurance “holidays” to businesses which hire ex-offenders and a scheme to fast-track people who have served their sentence into the Civil Service. 

Ministers hope the strategy “will help to cut the £15bn annual cost of reoffending, as ex-offenders in employment are up to nine percentage points less likely to commit further crime”, says The Guardian. At present just 17% of all ex-offenders are in a taxpaying employment a year after release.

However, the measures could prove controversial, especially plans to increase the use of release on temporary licences, which has fallen in recent years after a number of inmates reoffended while on day release.

Guake also “risks stern criticism for his new strategy as drug use and violence inside Britain’s creaking prison system continues to soar”, says The Sun.

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