STYAL Prison has been criticised by the Ministry of Justice over the number of its inmates that go on to secure employment within six weeks.

New Government figures show that just 3.3 per cent of prisoners released from HMP Styal were employed within six weeks between October 1 last year and March 31 this year – well below the prison’s target of 8.9 per cent.

That has led to the Ministry of Justice scoring HMP Styal with the lowest rating possible of one out of four on post-release employment in its new annual statistics, meaning the prison’s performance is ‘of serious concern’.

However, HMP Styal was not alone in missing its target for post-release employment, with just five prisons in England and Wales meeting the six-week standard during that time period.

Prison reform charity The Howard League warns that jails across England and Wales are ‘turning out toddlers’ with offenders unable to learn basic life skills behind bars, leaving many struggling to find or keep jobs on the outside.

Frances Crook, chief executive, warned that such targets can be problematic, as many ex-prisoners struggle to retain jobs when they get them.

She said: “There is a huge effort to get people a job on release from prison.

“But more than 80 per cent of prisoners are not employed in a PAYE (pay as you earn) job one year on. The reason is because prisons don’t prepare people for the real world.

“It’s basic life skills such as getting yourself up in the morning, having a shower and some breakfast and being work ready, that prisoners are not capable of.

“They are turning out toddlers.”

Frances added that some inmates learning skilled work behind bars are not doing long enough hours to prepare them for a real job on release.

Data shows HMP Styal prisoners exceeded their scheduled working hours in the 11 months to February – against a national target of 80 per cent.

However, the number of hours actually worked by inmates was not disclosed.

Campbell Robb is chief executive of social justice charity Nacro, which works with people in and leaving prison.

He says many people are released without having 'meaningful training' or a home to go to.

“Add to that a criminal record, which holds them back from employment opportunities for years to come," he added.

“We are hopeful that the Government’s commitment this week to strengthening prison education, focusing on work-based training and skills will deliver real change.”

Within a new White Paper, revealing a planned overhaul of sentencing laws in England and Wales, the Government set out a new strategy to reduce reoffending with a focus on improving employment and accommodation for ex-offenders, and combating substance misuse.

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A Prison Service spokesman said: “Broadening access to training and work is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and keep the public safe.

“We already work with around 400 employers who provide opportunities to offenders, and we are reducing the time certain convictions stay on someone’s criminal record to allow those who have turned their backs on crime a fair chance of employment.”