Employment and Employability in Scotland’s Prisons: Working for Change?

What is the project about?

This project, funded by the SCCJR, explores the association between unemployment and offending and how the Scottish Prison Service addresses the need for, and right to, employability and employment.

Laura Piacentini, Beth Weaver and Cara Jardine of the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the University of Strathclyde will be hosting a half day event on February 19 (09.15 – 13.30) that brings together experts in penal policy, employment law and business to consider the kinds of legislative and policy reform that can better enable or encourage the intended or hoped for  outcomes underpinning work in prisons in Scotland.

Our plenary speakers are Teresa Medhurst, Director of Strategy, The Scottish Prison Service; Professor Douglas Brodie, Executive Dean University of Strathclyde and Professor of Employment Law; and Matt Fountain, CEO of Freedom Bakery.

We will be joined by practitioners and experts working to improve people’s experiences of and opportunities for employment both during custody and upon release.

*Please note that this event is by invitation only. For more information please contact laura.piacentini@strath.ac.uk 

When did it begin and end?

The project began in 2016 and ends in February 2018. A research briefing paper: ‘Employment and Employability in Scotland’s Prisons: Working for Change?’ will be published in 2018.

Why does this matter?

This matters because the association between unemployment and subsequent re-offending is well established. Desistance research also recognises a significant correlation between participation in employment, the accumulation of human and social capital and desistance and the importance of citizenship and reciprocal relationships. Yet, most employability and employment in prisons is poor quality, low-skilled and fails in meaningful ways to assist in the transition from prison to community and, ultimately, to affect processes of desistance and reintegration – and, crucially, finding employment post-release. The quality of employability for prisoners and prison work has been affected by penal strain (reduced investment in prisons under austerity, prison population increases and populist discourses that are punitive). In exploring the limited amount of research on employability and employment, it is not difficult to grasp the challenges that Scottish Prison Service is facing at individual and organisational levels because this issue cuts at the heart of perhaps the most potent question across all contemporary societies: what are prisons for? If the mechanisms for enhancing routes into employment in and through prisons require multi-sectorial involvement, what is the policy, legal and practice significance of this both for the individual prison and the organisational culture of the SPS?