Justice Secretary David Gauke MP has praised the efforts of a Brighouse company which helps ex-offenders find employment.
Offploy was set-up by Brighouse man Jacob Hill, who was sentenced to 28 months in prison for selling drugs at a music festival after falling into debt, and was released in April 2016.
His time in prison inspired him to set-up the social enterprise, which was founded only two weeks after Mr Hill came out of prison, with the help of a private investor.
in his first major speech since becoming Justice Secretary, Mr Gauke said last month it was his “aspiration” to see the prison population reduced, but that he wouldn’t be setting an “artificial target”
Today (Thursday), Mr Gauke met with Mr Hill to discuss how employers can forge stronger links with prisons in order to increase the amount of offenders who can find work.
Mr Gauke said: “I’m really impressed by what I’ve heard.
“It is very important we do everything we can to ensure that when prisoners are released, we get them into employment as quickly as possible.
“That is the best way in which we can turn people’s lives around.
“To hear what Offploy is doing in terms of support for ex-offenders, is really encouraging, and can help us move in the right direction about providing support to people as they leave prison.
“We know that if people get a job they’re less likely to re-offend. It’s good for the individuals and for society as a whole.
“What I’ve heard today is encouraging about the way Offploy is helping people.”
Mr Gauke said the Goverment has recruited an additional 3,111 prison officers, and that 90 per cent of them would be “on the landings” by the summer.
He added: “It’s really interesting to hear how Offploy works. Within Government, we’re keen to find good ways in which we can help prisoners, and this is certainly a very interesting model.
“We’re going to be setting our education and employment strategy in the next month, and this is certainly one of the ways in which it looks like we can help people get to where we want them to be, which is in employment.
“There are lots of different ways this can work, but this looks like being a good one.
“I don’t want a one-size-fits-all model, but it’s right we look at innovation and different ways we can deliver this.”
Mr Hill, whose parents were both police officers, said: “There’s a big push on supporting people into employment, and the key to that is education, getting people ready while they’re in custody to come out into a world of employment.
“Employers are listening now, so the fact the Secretary has a focus on the education side of custody is something I’m really glad to hear.
“It wasn’t fun in prison, obviously, but it was the biggest wake up call for me.
“I was on a destructive path, and I’m glad I went to prison for the sake of how it changed my trajectory.
“But also we were able to start Offploy because of the people I met inside and realised we need to be supporting them, and employers are missing out on the fact there are guys inside who are willing and ready to work, we just need to open our eyes more to support people from within there.”
When asked what he would like to see from the Government to improve the criminal justice system, Mr Hill said: “Encourage the system to work more with employers. That seems to be what’s happening now, which is brilliant.
“It needs to be more accessible for employers to direct what education is delivered in prisons, to guarantee employment on release.”