Unlocking Potential: towards effective, sustainable, and ethical provision of work opportunities for prisoners and prison leavers


ICPR is conducting research on the norms, values and policies surrounding prison labour, and how these are understood by practitioners, policymakers, prison monitors, and partner organisations which provide work in prisons. The resultant evidence base will be used to inform and promote better policy and practice and improved collaboration between public, private and voluntary sectors in the provision of effective, sustainable, and ethical work in prisons. We aspire to identify examples of good practice and effective collaboration, and to identify lessons that can be learned from prison work provision in three jurisdictions with widely differing political, economic, cultural and penal contexts: Brazil, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

The study addresses the following questions: 

  1. What kinds of work opportunity are available to prisoners in the USA, Brazil and the UK, and how do they compare?  

  1. What legal and policy frameworks currently govern the provision of work opportunities and the regulation of prison labour in each country? 

  1. Does the international normative framework applicable to prison labour provide sufficient protection against exploitative and otherwise unethical practices? Does it present unnecessary barriers to engagement by non-state providers?  

  1. What political, economic, social, and other imperatives shape the kinds of work offered to prisoners, and what claims are made about the benefits of prisoners’ work? 

  1. What should work in prisons look like, and how do we get there? 

Further information about the research can be found here


Private philanthropy grant