HC Deb 27 March 1928 vol 215 cc991-3

asked the Home Secretary the average cost of maintaining male prisoners in the various prisons of this country; whether in any prison stone breaking, stone pounding, or oakum picking is imposed as a task of work and, if so, whether such tasks are imposed as punishments for offences committed in prison; and whether any prisoners are allowed to earn money while serving as prisoners, and, if so, how much per week or month such payments amount to?


As this question raises a number of points, and the reply is necessarily long, I will circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the reply:

The Annual Reports of the Prison Commissioners always contain particulars of the cost of maintaining the various classes of prisoners. For the year 1926–27, the net cost, after deducting the value of prisoners' labour, was £1 9s. 5d. a week for convicts and £1 0s. 6d. a week for local prisoners. Stone breaking, stone pounding and oakum picking are not now regular prison industries. There is a stone breaking machine in the quarry at Dartmoor; occasionally some stone is broken by hand, but the work is not tasked, nor is it imposed as a punishment. Oakum picking is never imposed as a punishment, but it is still occasionally required to be done when no other work is available. For instance, when an outdoor working party at Dartmoor is prevented by the weather from going out to its ordinary job, it may be employed on picking oakum. A measured task is usually required. As regards the earning of money, prisoners committed for trial and prisoners treated under the rules for debtors are allowed to earn small sums, amounting in the case of trial prisoners to not more than 5s., and in the ease of debtors to not more than 2s. 6d. per week. Convicted prisoners, generally speaking, do not earn money, but there are arrangements whereby convicts undergoing preventive detention, and certain other long-term convicts, may earn small gratuities by good conduct and industry.


asked the Home Secretary in how many prisons concerts, lectures, and other work of a reformative, educational and recreational character is carried on; in how many is actual task work of a fixed character imposed; and whether he is able to say that the majority of persons detained in prison are engaged in useful work of a character which does not tend either to degrade or demoralise the prisoners?


At every prison for convicted prisoners there are educational classes and occasional lectures and concerts, Prisoners work in the day time in parties under supervision, and for most kinds of work the practice is not to require a measured task, but to rely on the supervising officer to see that diligence is maintained. In the evening, prisoners who are not occupied by educational courses do industrial work in their cells, and, so far as the nature of this work permits, a measured task is usually required. All work done in prisons is useful, and I do not regard any useful work as degrading or demoralising.