Careers in construction can reduce prison populations, according to Sheffield Hallam University.
The University said record levels of prison overcrowding could be tackled by improving the skills and employment prospects of offenders.
Del Roy Fletcher, project director at Sheffield Hallam’s Centre for Regional Economic Social Research, tracked eight male prisoners that had participated in the Construction Training in Prisons project at HMP Lindholme, funded by Yorkshire Forward and the Home Office.
He found that a lack of integration with other prison-based resettlement services had led some to experience difficulties securing appropriate accommodation which has made finding regular work much more difficult.
Fletcher provided advice on the most suitable ways the Category C Doncaster prison could develop the project to maximise its potential in terms of increasing post-release employment outcomes and reducing re-offending.
He said: “There is no quick fix to the problem of re-offending. Training does improve job prospects, but this isn’t enough on its own to guarantee resettlement and integration back into society. Stable and sustainable work, accommodation and family support are the three key elements to successful resettlement.”
Construction Training in Prisons at Lindholme was given a boost in 2004 following the conversion of a disused hangar sponsored by Yorkshire Forward. It teaches the disciplines of bricklaying, painting and decorating, plastering, plumbing and joinery. The vocational courses, which train prisoners to CITB and City and Guilds level, are however generating a number of additional benefits including providing purposeful activity for offenders and helping to maintain order.
Fletcher said: “The masculine nature of construction is appealing to prisoners; they enjoy working in the workshops and can see the benefits of using the skills in their own lives.”
He also interviewed employers in the construction industry and found that many are “relatively enlightened and receptive to the idea of employing ex-offenders to address labour shortages”. There are, however, real concerns about criminal convictions which in their eyes compromise qualities like honesty and reliability, he said.