Brits Alarmed to Learn Prisoners Work as Insurance Telemarketers
by Joe Watson
Some knickers are in a bunch over revelations that prisoners in Great Britain are working as telemarketers for an insurance company.
Prisoners at two facilities – HMP Oakwood and the Drake Hall women’s jail in Staffordshire – were earning £20 (about $33) a week asking insurance customers for personal information over the phone.
The jobs, part of a Ministry of Justice program to give prisoners work experience, require them to read from a script and, according to an unnamed source, tell homeowners they are calling on behalf of a “market research” contractor.
“When they get through, they are told to ask, ‘would you like to save some money?’” the source informed The Sun, a British tabloid. When the call recipient says yes, the prisoners “then ask to confirm names and postcode, enough to identify where they live, and if they have valuable items” that should be insured.
“It may have put hundreds of homes’ security at risk,” the source concluded.
Peter Cuthbertson of the U.K. Centre for Crime Prevention was just as hyperbolic. “Trusting criminals with people’s financial details is incredibly naive,” he said. “Burglars will know who to target when they are released.”
None of the call centers – run by private firms targeting new customers – has been accused of improper conduct. The Ministry of Justice said prisoners working in the call centers are “risk assessed,” and the calls are supervised and recorded.
“We do not want prisoners sitting idle in their cells when they should be working towards their rehabilitation,” a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said. “We prepare offenders for work inside prison so they can get a job after release. This reduces the chances that they will reoffend in the future, meaning lower crime and fewer victims.”
Another official at the Ministry of Justice acknowledged, however, that “this is not work prisoners should be involved in.”
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