Almost half of prisoners’ wages are to be used to fund victim support services, the Ministry of Justice has announced.
Low-risk prisoners, who work outside of prison, will have up to 40 per cent of their net weekly wages over £20 given to the national charity Victim Support said the Ministry on Monday.
The charity will receive up to £1 million a year from the scheme, which is intended to make offenders take personal responsibility for their crimes.
The Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Nick Herbert, said in a statement: "For too long the financial burden of repairing the damage done by crime has fallen to the taxpayer alone. By bringing into force the Prisoners’ Earnings Act, this government is making a significant and overdue change.
"Making offenders pay financial reparation to victims will require them to take personal responsibility for their crimes and go some way towards making redress to victims through the funding of crucial support services."
The low-risk prisoners, eligible to work in the community, who are completing the end of their sentence in open prisons often work for firms in the construction and decorating sectors. Most of the work done by prisoners involves packaging food, electrical components, and other goods. They will not be affected by the new rules.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said in a statement: "We support the idea that prisoners are given the opportunity to work and pay taxes, contribute to the upkeep of their families, and pay money to a fund for victims. But the focus should be on getting prisoners into paid work in prison itself, where the kind of deductions envisaged by the Prisoners Earnings Act could then be made.
"Focusing instead on the few prisoners working in the community on open conditions at the very end of their sentence is a mistake. The proposals risk taking away the incentive for this group to work as they already pay tax and inevitably pay substantial travel costs to and from work, while the new bureaucracy will be burdensome for the businesses employing them on the outside."
Victim Support says that victims want offenders to be punished, but also to repair some of the harm they have caused.
Javed Khan, chief executive of Victim Support, said in a statement: "Helping victims to find their strength after crime is our number one priority. We will use the money from this initiative to deliver real, practical support for victims and communities.
"Getting prisoners working and developing workplace skills should help them on the path to reform. This will be very much welcomed by victims as they are united in wanting offenders to stop committing crimes."