Here in the West Midlands we are lucky enough to have some of the biggest and best businesses in the country. Jaguar Land Rover, Cadbury’s and National Express, to name just a few. They all contribute to our economy by employing tens of thousands of people.
But there are many lesser known firms doing great work too.
Take Inside Out Ventures, for example. It’s a relatively small firm which only started trading 4 years ago, but it already supplies clean laundry to Michelin star restaurants, Premier League football clubs and 5* hotels. What makes the company so interesting though, is that more than three quarters of its workforce is either currently in prison or has a criminal record.
The firm is allowed to train and employ inmates as long as it doesn’t make extra profit by doing so. Inside Out Ventures must, by law, pay the prison the market rate for the work being done by the prisoners. The prison then gives a small amount of that money to the inmates, in the form of wages, and reinvests the difference in the prison service. Everyone wins.
The company’s Managing Director – Ian Perkins – trains and by proxy employs 70 inmates at five prisons across the country. Ian has himself served time behind bars, but says he wants to give something back and knows, first-hand, just how important it is for criminals to receive support if they are to avoid reoffending.
His work is vital.
If we are to reduce crime in our area then we must stop criminals reoffending. We need them to leave prison, find a job and contribute. If they don’t they will end up costing the taxpayer millions of pounds and will continue causing harm.
I know only too well that people with criminal records can be invaluable to an organisation. Many are very keen to make amends for the past and get on with their lives after serving time behind bars. I recently employed a man on a short term contract who had a manslaughter conviction. He turned out to be an exemplary employee with many skills to offer.
This success has led me to host a Business Crime Summit in Birmingham later this month. Companies from across the region will attend and I will be raising awareness amongst the business community about the expertise which already exists amongst people with a criminal record. Crucially we need these individuals to make amends and put something back into the community.
We all have a duty to act as well as a vested interest in doing so.
David Jamieson Police and Crime Commissioner