Prisoners Armed with Construction Skills to Combat Crime

  • two-week push across jails to get more prisoners into work
  • offenders skilled-up in scaffolding with cutting-edge virtual reality technology
  • figures show ex-offenders in work less likely to return to life of crime

More than 80 'Unlocking Construction' events have been held in over 60 prisons as part of a two-week campaign - with scaffolders, crane operatives and building site managers among those showing offenders the ropes in their industry.

Firms have laid the crucial groundwork for prisoner job hunts, with guidance on CV building, interview training and hands-on workshops giving them the chance to secure work ahead of release.

At HMP Wormwood Scrubs, prisoners have also been given an insight into the scaffolding sector using special virtual reality technology that simulates working at height on a building site - helping prisoners to determine if the job is right for them and increasing the chance that successful applicants stick with it.

Evidence shows that ex-prisoners who have a job to go to are nine percentage points less likely to go on to re-offend while 90% of businesses that employ them found reliable, motivated and trustworthy staff.

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary, Dominic Raab, said:

Campaigns like Unlocking Construction are steering offenders into work and away from crime, leaving our streets safer.

At the same time, businesses can plug skills gaps with reliable and motivated staff - so it is good for our economy.

As well as helping cut reoffending, the drive is specifically geared towards plugging gaps in essential workforces too, getting prison leavers to contribute to their local economies and boost growth.

This is the second of four campaigns to run over the year led by the Prison Service's New Futures Network. Manufacturing and retail and logistics drives are earmarked for the coming months.

The construction push builds on the success of Unlocking Hospitality in October which saw almost 50 prisoners land jobs and 150 interviews conducted in the campaign fortnight alone.

One ex-offender who landed a job as a chef as a result of the scheme has since taken on leadership responsibilities in the kitchen and is working to get more prisoners to follow his path.

National Access & Scaffolding Confederation training manager, Henry Annafi, said:

If you get a successful candidate, what I can absolutely guarantee is loyalty - because you're giving them an opportunity that very few if any people have given them and they will pay you back tenfold in that respect.

Plus there are so many diverse experiences and skillsets that many of these men and women have that it is actually a no-brainer to give people that chance.

A participating prisoner at Wormwood Scrubs said the day's event, and others like it, would help prisoners to "engage their mind" and offer them "something positive to do on release".

A lot of prisoners have got skills, but they're not being utilised, because we've committed a crime, so people don't want to give us a second chance," he added.

But stuff like this enables prisoners to bring out their skillset and be the best they can be.

Getting prisoners into work is a tried-and-tested way of cutting crime. The government's Prisons White Paper sets out a strategy to reduce reoffending and keep the public safe, with a laser-focus on helping prisoners develop the skills they need to find work on release and turn their backs on crime.

The government is also investing to reduce reoffending, which includes helping prisoners develop the skills they need to find work on release and turn their backs on crime.


  • Unlocking Construction is running between 23 January and 3 February - the second sector drive that New Futures Network (part of HMPPS) committed to over the course of a year, from last October.
  • A range of national construction employers including Kier, O'Neill and Brennan and Willmott Dixon have also taken part. We also involved local construction companies and employers the Department for Work and Pensions National Employer & Partnership Team are working with.
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