This year we’re planning to have at least one of our new games made in prison, with the help of a charity called Blue Sky, who approached us last year.
“And why would you want to do that?” we hear you ask. There are several reasons. Prison costs more than Eton: the average cost in 2010-11 was £37k per prisoner per year, according to the Ministry of Justice, which makes Eton College look good value at £33k per year. Despite the lavish cost, its record at preventing crime is disappointing: 47% of adults are re-convicted within one year of release (source: MoJ). The figures are worse the more times a person has been in prison.
The evidence suggests that employment is a vital part of reducing this depressing cycle. Blue Sky has to date employed more than 750 ex-offenders in their grounds maintenance and waste recycling arm, cutting re-offending rates by 50%. They also provide textile and woodworking employment inside prison – and that’s where we plan to get involved. Some of the machine work will be done by British manufacturers outside of prison, whilst the more labour intensive end will be handled inside. Whist the prisoners will be paid, the amount is significantly less than the minimum wage, given that the prisoners’ living costs are already covered.
One might ask why we should spend effort helping people who may have committed serious offences. However, you don’t need to feel sympathy for criminals in order to see the benefits of reducing re-offending, thereby reducing the number of victims of crime. But our hope goes beyond that – that employment for prisoners might be one part of helping restore their lives.
There are a lot of pitfalls and ethical questions that spring up from this sort of initiative – and that’s why we’re sharing the idea with you. Your thoughts and questions are welcome.