How prison is helping inmates into work
Crime reporter Jenna Thompson goes behind the walls of HMP Everthorpe to find out how prisoners are being helped into work ...
IN A busy workshop, a small group of men are fiddling with hundreds of tiny nuts and bolts.
Next door, several men have their eyes fixed on the computer screens in front of them.
With the radio blasting out and banter between the group, the scene resembles a normal workplace.
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The only clues this is different are the clothes worn by the workers – regulation green trousers and grey jumpers bearing the initials EVT – and the sign on the wall reading HMP Everthorpe.
Prison governor Ed Cornmell says: "It might be a working environment but there is no getting away from the fact you are in a prison."
A recent inspection of the jail, near Brough, found not enough was being done to help inmates find a job or home on their release.
It is an area Mr Cornmell has been keen to focus on since he arrived as governor in December.
"We aren't doing bad, but we need to do more and we want to do more," he says.
"We are in the anti-crime business, we want to stop people committing crime and creating more victims.
"If Everthorpe was a factory, what we want to have is law-abiding citizens coming off the production line."
The Category C training prison is home to 689 male inmates.
Walking around the site, Mr Cornmell points out the different workshops that make up what he calls the prison's "business park".
There is a bicycle repair centre, a print and sign production area, and a painting and decorating workshop.
In each room, groups of 12 to 18 inmates will spend about six hours a day working for up to £14 a week.
Jason, a convicted arsonist, has spent 18 months working in the woodmill, where he has helped to make picnic benches, garden sheds and summer houses.
He has been in prison for three- and-a-half years after being jailed indefinitely to protect the public.
He must serve at least five years before being considered for parole.
He says: "I love being in here building things and keeping myself busy.
"I know it's going to be hard for me to get a job when I get out, but I have friends with their own businesses who might be able to help.
"Working in here has meant I was able to get qualifications, which I was over the moon about."
Mr Cornmell now wants to work more with local public services and businesses to make the prisoners feel part of the community.
He says: "It is only right that prisoners should pay something back to the society they have harmed.
"All these men will be returning to the streets of Hull and the East Riding and the wider community so we have to mirror some of society, otherwise we are turning people out who will be as bad as they were before."
When they are not working, prisoners can be found in basic cells comprising a bed, sink and toilet.
Most cell walls are lined with posters and some have televisions – if the inmate is prepared to pay £1 a week out of their wages.
"If people think this is like a holiday camp, they should sack their travel agent," says Mr Cornmell.
"There are cells designed for one person that two are in, so they are literally living cheek by jowl."
In the corridors leading to the cells, there are pool and ping-pong tables which inmates are allowed to use for short periods each day.
Outside, there is an exercise area with basic gym equipment. Around the prison, the grey buildings and gates are brightened by plots of wildflowers tended by prisoners.
Inside the workshops, prisoners also work towards qualifications and are taught the skills they need to run their own business, such as filling in a tax return.
Mr Cornmell says "It can be hard for an ex-offender to find a job, so many do choose to set up their own businesses.
"We want them to use the entrepreneurial skills they used to commit crime to do something positive."
Mr Cornmell also believes local businesses struggling financially could work with the prison to save money.
He says: "We don't have the same overheads and staffing costs as a business. We have a workforce that could be used to support businesses and help them keep their staff."
Before arriving at Everthorpe, Mr Cornmell was the deputy governor at the high-security Full Sutton jail, near Pocklington.
He said: "We lock up a large portion of people who offend in this area and now we want to concentrate on doing something good for the community they have harmed."