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Prison inmates working under enhanced wages work outside prison launch a challenge against the big share going to the victims of crime

Date: (10 May 2012)    |    

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Prison inmates who work outside the jail premises in the community before their release have launched a High Court battle to keep a bigger share of their wages claiming that much was being diverted to victim support.
Their lawyers today challenged the legality of the way Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was operating rules governing deductions from pay packets.
Under the Prisoners' Earnings Act 1996, inmates engaged in ''enhanced wages work'' outside prison have to contribute 40% of pay over a anything earned over £20 to victim support.
The counsels for the prisoners whose name has been not revealed have said that the payments were ''disproportionate'' and there was ''widespread concern'' about the charge.
The counsel referred to the pressure group ''Unlock'' (the National Association of Reformed Offenders) which argued that the levy was acting as a detriment to rehabilitation concept and acting as 'a disincentive to work'.
Mr Justice Sales at London's High Court was told that Mr Clarke could, and should, have allocated a portion of the 40% levy to help the inmates rebuild their lives as well as help victims.
The court was also urged to declare that the way Prison Service rules were being applied it should be declared as incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
The argument went on stating it would have been possible for the Secretary of State under the Prison Rules to acknowledge that prisoners need to make savings for their release, and to set aside money for their dependants and other significant needs.
It was also argued that the evidence showed that there was not sufficient amount left from their earnings to set aside for those purposes.
The court was told that a balance was needed between the interests of victims and the inmates.
The counsel said the Secretary of State had not done that as only the interests of the victims were considered ignoring the prisoner’s.
The case mostly concerns the inmates of open prisons, as well as some Category C prisoners allowed to work out in the community on day release under contracts of employment.
The rates of pay from outside employers are higher than those for work performed in prison.
There were also complaints that they were being left with insufficient to pay towards costs of resettlement such as helping out with family expenses, or saving for a rent deposit and furniture for when they were released.
The hearing continues tomorrow