prisoners (especially for women who wish to get their children back home with them) and, in the case of drug users trying to get clean, detoxification is another.
None the less, there are women serving sentences who have worked prior to their imprisonment and others who say that ‘“getting a job” is the most important factor in helping them to avoid re-offending’ (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 1997: 121).
The work available in women’s prisons is currently listed by HM Prison Service (2003) as including: college and community placements; prison upkeep work such as cleaning, cooking, gardening, laundry; hairdressing; industrial cleaning training; light assembly work; garment workshop; painting and decorating training; computing and office skills; forklift truck driving qualifying course; textile manufacturing; animal sanctuary; car mechanics workshop; prisoner-led advice and resource centre; craft and design; prisoner run housing office; National Vocational Qualifications and educational courses from basic skills to degree level courses through the Open University and other universities. Thus on paper it can be claimed that there is a good range of work on offer (and not merely the traditional women’s work); but, yet again, according to the Chief Inspector of Prisons (2004a) delivery during 2002-2003 was patchy, primarily because of under- funding and overcrowding, making both adequate staffing and appropriate allocation difficult to achieve. For example:
Drake Hall, with fewer women able to work outside the prison, did not have enough work and education spaces inside. Morton Hall had a high level of participation, but few qualifications on offer. (HM Chief Inspector of Prisons 2004a: 39) Of the women we interviewed, only the women serving life-sentences felt that they had made good use of their time in prison. Muriel, serving a life sentence of 14 years, and the other ‘lifer’ interviewed had both obtained degrees in social science and worked outside the prison for the last year of their sentences, returning at night. The other interviewees, serving relatively short terms, had not felt that any work they had done in prison had added to their skills. They could either have attended education classes or worked at one of the available jobs in prison or gardens maintenance or in the library. The responses below were typical replies to our question, ‘What do you think of the jobs available in
prison?’ Rubbish! Especially the pay for cleaners and especially as they have the worst jobs, like cleaning the toilets. I’ve done wing cleaner, main corridor cleaner and yard cleaner. Training? None. You’re just given a pair of rubber gloves and told to wear them. I’d like to work in the kitchens but I’m an epileptic. (P1)
Crap! I’ve worked on the landing, in the kitchen and as an outside cleaner. In the kitchen they told me where the things was and what liquids to clean the floor with. They make you work hard, don’t tell you how to do it, and keep changing what you’re supposed to be doing because someone won’t do what they’re supposed to do. (P9)
Of women prisoners surveyed in 1999, although 90 per cent had had at least one job during their sentence, only 30 per cent believed that this would help them to find work post release. Furthermore only 24 per cent of women with a prior skill had the chance to put their skill into practice through prison work. (Social Exclusion Unit 2002: 139, quoting Hamlyn and Lewis 2000)
A worker in prison commented : T h e y n e e d m a r k e t a b l e s k i l l s , s o m e t h i n g t h a t w i l l g e t t h e m a j o b n o w , n o t i n t h e f u t u r e , a f t e r t h e y ’ v done more training. (A.4) e