2019 – 74 – wage threat
Wage Threat: horse… water… drink
Over the past few months the prison have implemented some concerning policy changes regarding prisoners attending education. They’ve changed job descriptions to include education courses. The courses themselves are not important here; although, from the feedback I’ve been given, they appear to be of a low standard and pretty worthless for the majority of prisoners. The important issue here are the threats to the prisoners’ wages and work allocation if they refuse to complete these courses. Cleverly, by changing the job description, the prison think they can now sanction a prisoner for refusing education. I say think…
While I’m an advocate for education, I’m not an advocate for bullying. Here’s what I researched: the new policy framework on prison education does not allow for any prisoner to be financially sanctioned for refusing to attend an education course. In fact, Rule 32 of the Prison Rules 1999 use key phrases such as, “encouraged to do so,” and “who wish to do so.”
There’s more: PSO 4460 Prisoners’ Pay only allows for wage deductions for poor attendance or performance. Local pay policies to be “reasoned and structured” and “not applied in an arbitary or discriminatory way.”There is only one other way a prisoner could have his pay reduced: “Prisoners may also lose for disiplinary reasons.”
Rule 55 allows for “stoppage of or deduction from earnings for a period not exceeding 84 days.” The ‘punishment’ for not attending one of these courses has no expiry date; it’s a far more severe financial penalty than could be give for certain prison disipline infractions, such as assault.
This policy also engages issues of public law; for example, ‘improper purpose’. Using punishment sanctions for an improper purpose is an abuse of power and, as such, unlawful. Using the illegitimate threat of punishment sanctions to coerce a prisoner into completing an education course is ‘duress’and, as such, unlawful. Then there’s the ‘Wednesbury’ reasonableness principle: or unreasonable. This policy is the very definition of unreasonable. Then there’s the matter of breaching work ‘compacts’ (contracts) signed by prisoners prior to this new policy.
Suffice it to say, I now find myself being under attack from this misconceived threatening policy. If I don’t attend my wages may be reduced. Then we would find ourselves in the position of paying me less than my other library colleagues for doing the same job and, in some cases working more sessions and doing more work.
You know me well enough by now to know that I will not let this type of injustice slide. Reduce my wages, if you dare.
Be happy, be safe and be kind.
Graham Coutts, 17th September 2019