Unlocking potential: towards effective, sustainable and ethical provision of employment opportunities for prisoners and prison-leavers


This international comparative three-year project, which commenced in early 2022, is researching the provision of employment and training in prisons in the UK, Brazil and the USA.

Reoffending rates among ex-prisoners worldwide have been high for decades, placing a heavy economic burden on societies. One of the main drivers of reoffending is unemployment, but ex-prisoners face many challenges finding a job on release. People with prior histories of disadvantage, social and educational exclusion and unemployment are over-represented in prison populations. Our recent research has revealed the value that prisoners in many countries place on work and training in custody. Yet prisons rarely receive the necessary resources to prioritise training and employment. Work in prisons is usually in short supply and is either low-paid or unpaid.

This project will produce an evidence base 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. This will contribute to a reduction in reoffending, by virtue of greater numbers of prisoners gaining skills and working in paid jobs during their time in custody; and more ex-prisoners receiving support to gain skills and employment on release.


Private philanthropy grant