tutor giving training to ex-offender

Resettling prisoners after release: getting ex-offenders into the workforce

Tony Simpson, Justice Operations Director
About the author : Tony Simpson, Justice Operations Director

Tony Simpson is Justice Operations Director for Sodexo Government, where he is responsible for the contractual and operational delivery of five, soon to be six, prisons in the UK. Tony started his career in justice in 1992 as Assistant Governor at Peterhead Prison, and went on to work with public and private providers all over the UK during his career. He leads on our current relationships with His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service and the Scottish Prison Service, where together we aim to rehabilitate those in our care and transform lives for the better.

Published on : 11/29/22
Reading time : 5 min
  • Upskilling, retraining, and boosting confidence; activity across our prisons is supporting prisoners into positive futures upon release and helping them to find a new direction in life. This approach also leads to benefits for local industry and the economy, demonstrating what good prison management can achieve for society.

    Working in the prison system means dealing with many highs and lows, as we all work tirelessly to protect the public and support prisoners who have a complex range of issues and needs. In our UK prisons, Sodexo teams provide the vast majority of services, including the pivotal role of Prison Custody Officer.

    Beyond safety and security, I’m incredibly proud of our work to support people in education and employment to ensure positive resettlement. 


    Support that encourages positive resettlement

    ex-offender working as an hairdresser Many of the jobs within prisons are carried out by prisoners themselves, such as cleaning, cooking, serving in cafés, and hairdressing, which help prepare them for opportunities in the outside world. The Release on Temporary Licence (RoTL) programme allows selected prisoners to leave prison for a short time to participate in work to gain the skills and experience to help them achieve employment on release.

    Alongside our education and training programmes, the RoTL programme helps to improve vocational skills, breaking down the stigma of offending by showing employers and communities that prisoners can make a valued contribution to the workplace and the local area. We also believe that families have a key supporting role to play in ensuring the participant is motivated and ready to attend work on release; they can help to create a valuable support structure after release. 

    One prisoner, used to working in the onsite prison café, took part in HMP Bronzefield’s RoTL programme earlier this year and was given the opportunity to work for Sodexo at Ascot, including in the build-up to Royal Ascot week: 

    I can’t believe I have been working at Royal Ascot! After years of low confidence, I can now hold my head high and feel proud of my achievements. It’s important that people don’t judge us and I believe we all deserve a second chance. I am thankful that HMP Bronzefield, Sodexo, and Ascot believed in me.

    Recognising the potential of ex-offenders

    Doing as much as possible to help those with a criminal history is not only critically important for the individuals themselves but can also be hugely beneficial for wider society. Offering second chances can be an effective investment in local communities and a great solution for local skills and labour market needs. 

    ex-offender in CV workshop

    Our prison career hubs help to ensure leavers are prepared for the outside world. Employment specialists, career advisors, and staff members not only hold interview techniques and CV writing workshops but also help leavers to access official identification documents and a bank account, which makes it easier to find employment and accommodation.

    One of Sodexo’s prisons, HMP Forest Bank, recently held its first-ever jobs fair, linking employers from the construction industry with more than 40 prisoners to discuss opportunities for life after prison. The aim of the day was for prisoners to secure interviews and to encourage employers to become actively involved in training and recruiting offenders after release. 

    Lynsey Wright, part of the wider resettlement team at the prison spoke of the effects that organising events like these can have:

    "We are committed to helping prisoners find a fresh start and new life direction upon release, and events like these provide a huge opportunity to prepare those in our care for life after prison", she says. 

    I am particularly proud of the work my team carried out with one troubled young man going down the wrong path. He ended up completely changing his life around and went on to win the Young Heroes Award. I've since seen him take on successful roles in the community, and I'm incredibly happy he's doing so well.

    Lynsey Wright


    Helping tackle skills shortages

    Businesses across many sectors around the country are suffering from skills shortages and recruitment costs, and this issue is particularly apparent in the construction industry.

    carpentry workshop with ex-prisionersAt HMP Addiewell, the employability team has partnered with the Construction Industry Training Board to run regular Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) courses. This is the operative test taken by most construction workers, including bricklayers, labourers, and carpenters.

    With an ever-widening gap in the talent pool for recruitment in construction, diversifying the workforce through initiatives such as these can only be a positive step forward for everyone involved.

    We are delighted that the scheme has resulted in almost 50 prisoners successfully attaining their CSCS green cards so far, which will allow these individuals to make impactful contributions to the construction industry and wider economy upon release.


    Our partnerships with charities

    Part of Sodexo’s social value commitment is to actively promote social mobility across our business and support groups who need a helping hand securing suitable employment. One of the ways we do this is by partnering with several charities across the UK and Ireland. 

    The Oswin Project is a charity based in the North East of England who have partnered with HMP Northumberland to give prisoners a second chance by sourcing paid employment, volunteering opportunities, training, and work experience. 

    They have mentored and trained a team of prison leavers at a church café in Newcastle, with ex-offenders who have taken part speaking of the improvement in their confidence and readiness for work. One prison leaver who regularly works at the café now shares his experiences to inform others of the challenges ex-offenders face. 

    Having a routine, a reason to get up in the morning - it is hard to put into words the difference it has made. I feel that sharing my frank accounts of the realities of prison and substance addiction has made a tangible impact on those I’ve spoken to.

    We’re committed to filling 5% of our own job vacancies with prison leavers

    We’re passionate about doing as much as possible to help prisoners gain employment after leaving and want to demonstrate our commitment to creating a diverse workforce. We aim to fill 5% of our own job vacancies with prison leavers and those with an offending background by 2023.

    Having a job makes such a big difference in how well people can integrate back into society and keep away from crime. It’s hard to underestimate the impact these initiatives can have on individual lives. From the RoTL scheme to job fairs and skills qualifications, it all helps to reduce reoffending rates and offer prisoners a second chance for a positive future on release. 


    Sodexo Justice

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