18 JUNE 1948, Page 3

Employment in Prisons

( Two suggestions of reform, of varying importance, were made in the House of Lords Committee on the Criminal Justice Bill on Tuesday. Lord Llewellin's suggestion that pregnant women should be released for the time so that their children should be born out- side prison was withdrawn, since it was stated that the new Bill already makes it possible for prisoners' confinements to take place in outside hospitals. Lord Templewood's amendment urging the Government to prepare a programme of prison work opens up a far wider question of reform. The war, with its pressing need for labour, brought productive work to some prisons, but now that there is widespread under-employment, dreary routine tasks continue, and the earnings up to recently have been sixpence a day (now " in- creased by 5o per cent."). Lord Templewood, insisting that the labour of every adult is still needed, suggested that particular types of work should be allotted to different prisons, and that tasks of national importance, such as afforestation and land-drainage, should be undertaken, with earnings in closer relationship to outside wages. This, as he pointed out, has already been tried in parts of Scandinavia and America, and has been proved to have a reformative effect. The Lord Chancellor, though sympathetic, drew attention to the difficulties—that employers and trade unions must be consulted about rates of pay, that there is no extra staff available to supervise work on the land, that it is not easy at present to obtain machines for industrial work. Nevertheless, the amendment was accepted, and, it is to be hoped that by degrees the old routine tasks may give place to work that is both reformative and productive.