Real work in prison


Finding a job after custody is hard enough, but imagine explaining to an employer that your only work experience while inside has been counting screws into packets or sticking labels onto tubs.  

Following an extensive investigation into the work opportunities available to prisoners, the Howard League established 'Barbed', a graphic design studio inside a prison, and ran it as a proper business. A design studio inside a prison is unusual - in fact itís unique. Itís hard to believe this actually worked, but it did - extremely well. Barbed produced work as varied as business cards, annual reports, posters and exhibition banners, plus many more items. The studio had a very positive vibe and there was a real team spirit. This was reflected  in the quality of the work. It flourished, and the prisoners/employees paid tax and NI contributions until the Prison Service decided that prisoners were not able to pay either of these.

More on the studio's closure

Business behind bars: making real work in prison work

The Howard League has produced a real work implementation report called Business behind bars which has revealed that government plans to introduce real work in prison could raise £9.9m for the public purse as well as £17m per year for victimsí funds. Not only will introducing real work into prisons bring financial gain to the country, but polling has revealed popular support for both the broad policy and elements of how prisonersí pay is spent.

Further information

Barbed: what happened next? Follow up story of employees of a prison social enterprise follows up on the story of the world's first social enterprise based inside a prison, analysing what happened to those prisoners who were employed in this pilot of real work in prison. 

Prison work and social enterprise: the story of Barbed is an evaluation of Barbed carried out by Professor Penny Green at King's College, London.

More on Barbed and a visit by Cherie Blair.