Prison “job centres” and links with big businesses are behind a rise in the number of ex-offenders finding work after time inside, according to the Ministry of Justice.
New figures for England and Wales show 640 prisoners found employment six weeks after being released in the year to March 2023, compared with 487 a year earlier.
It represents 19.4% of all inmates released.
The number in work after six months was 715 (30.4% of all those released) – up from 573 the year before and 394 two years ago.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, in his first interview since taking over the position from Dominic Raab, said those in steady jobs are 9% less likely to reoffend.
“The offenders speak about the dignity that comes with this, the discipline of work, and that sense of hope,” he told Sky News.
“They’ve done bad things, and they’ve got to pay for their crimes but the thought that they can move forward with their lives is so fundamental.”
Firms such as Greggs and the Co-op are among those linking up with prisons through Employment Advisory Boards, which have now been set up in 92 resettlement prisons.
The boards help identify job opportunities and match them with people in custody, even helping prisoners do interviews via video link.
It follows the roll out of one-stop employment hubs, similar to high street job centres, where prisoners can get career advice, CV help and find job adverts.
The government says the initiatives will help tackle the £18bn annual cost of re-offending.
The justice secretary this week opened a new workshop run by international logistics firm DHL at HMP High Down in Surrey, which will employ up to 90 inmates to sort goods to be shipped to other prisons.
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Emily Martin, the prison’s governor, said the new facility will help ex-offenders “turn their lives around”.
“We’re asking people to do a proper working week,” she said.
“They’re getting up, coming into work, they’re performing in terms of their jobs.
All of those things are key if you want to replicate that out into the community when they’re released.”
Simon, who helped construct a workshop during his sentence at HMP High Down, said the experience taught him new skills and gave him confidence.
“I now have a job waiting for me on the outside and that makes me hopeful I can make positive choices and stay on the straight and narrow,” he said.