Victims of crime who have been unable to claim the compensation to which they feel they are entitled will be given a boost after the government revealed it is set to introduce new measures that will see prisoners working a full-time week, with proceeds of their labour going to pay compensation to those affected by their actions.
Ken Clarke, the justice secretary, is keen to re-implement a law that was originally introduced by the last Tory government, under John Major, and that was never fully integrated by Labour.
The Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996 will be expanded and supplemented by the new regulations, which seek to tackle what the Conservatives call ‘enforced, bored idleness’ in jail.
Under the proposals, prison governors will have the power to recruit private companies who in turn will offer prisoners employment via a standard 9-5 working day. A proportion of the prisoners’ earnings will be transferred to a fund for victims’ compensation while at the same time potentially being used to contribute towards any state benefits the prisoner’s family may be receiving.
Under the original Act, only work undertaken outside prison walls was eligible for government remuneration, but the new rules would also apply to work inside prison, reports the Manchester Evening News, as well as massively increasing the scope for the work being offered to inmates and their working hours.
Mr Clarke told the press: “I want to revive a policy of John Major’s last Conservative government and make deductions from earnings of working prisoners, to provide compensation for victims of crime.
“We will make it easier for prison governors to bring more private companies into their jails to create well-run businesses employing prisoners.”
He also believes that the structure of a working day and the responsibility of paying victims back will greatly help them adjust to life outside prison upon release.
Currently, victims of violent crime are only able to seek compensation for their injuries, physical or psychological, through the Criminal Injury Compensation Authority, which has come under fire in recent times for not being as generous to victims as its predecessor, the Criminal Injury Compensation Fund, was.
They can also personally sue the aggressor who caused their condition, but in practical terms this does not usually work. Under Mr Clarke’s revised proposals, many more criminals will be liable to personally pay their victims back for what they have done to them, rather than leaving it to the taxpayer to foot the bill for both their victims’ injury claims and their own accommodation.