Richard Branson has called on businesses to do more to help rehabilitate ex-offenders after they have left prison.
The Virgin Group Founder wants more opportunities for prisoners to gain qualifications and skills while in jail.
“We quietly accept the economic and social cost of reoffending, but we are reluctant to make a comparatively smaller investment that could significantly reduce this price tag,” he said.
“Instead of being places of repression and stagnation, prisons should be places of activity, learning and opportunity.”
Branson praised schemes like The Clink Charity which has set up prisoner-run restaurants in four prisons (with plans to open more), and allowed more than 500 prisoners to graduate from their training programmes.
He also called for businesses to offer more opportunities to ex-offenders. With statistics showing that 78% say they would not reoffend if they found a job, Branson noted the success Virgin Trains had found when employing former convicts.
“We encourage our businesses to actively work with, and consider applications from people with prior convictions, and Virgin Trains has been pioneering the hiring of ex-offenders – an approach which could become a model for many of our businesses. The vast majority of the people that we have employed, and therefore provided with the dignity of work, are still working with us and are valued members of our team.”
“Business must become a stronger advocate for rehabilitation. It makes perfect sense, as it increases the talent pool, lowers the price tag of reoffending, nurtures entrepreneurial spirit, and contributes to safer communities.
“Ex-prisoners should have the chance to learn from the mistakes of their past and be fully rehabilitated. Business must play an important role to make sure they success.”