NEWS21 August 2013

Questions raised over ‘market research’ prison work scheme

Government UK

UK — Convicted criminals are taking part in a prison work scheme that has them conduct phone interviews with home owners on behalf of an unnamed market research company.

A report, first published by the Daily Mail, reveals that prisoners at HMP Oakwood and Drake Hall are earning £20 a week conducting “market research” surveys, where they use a script to confirm names and postcodes of households and the value of their possessions.

However, according to the Mail, prisoners are also told to ask households if they would like to save money on their home insurance, which has prompted concerns that an element of sugging – selling under the guise of research – might be involved.

MRS chief executive Jane Frost said the MRS was supportive of attempts to rehabilitate offenders through skills training, but was “always concerned when there is a suggestion that quality and ethics are not being adhered to in the practice of market research”.

She said: “We would hope that this research is being conducted by an accredited MRS partner according to the rules of the MRS Code of Conduct.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman could not confirm whether the work was being conducted under the MRS Code of Conduct, and neither the Justice spokesman nor G4S, which runs HMP Oakwood, would give details of the companies involved.

However, G4S denied that prisoners were engaged in sugging. It said the questions being asked formed part of “a lifestyle survey”. A spokeswoman said: “The call centre at HMP Oakwood is one of many partnerships we run with businesses, and enables prisoners to work towards apprenticeships and industry-recognised qualifications. The prisoners receive training and we comply fully with all codes of conduct.”



9 years ago

On the face of it this is indeed sugging and the MRS should press hard for the name of the "market research company" concerned. I am glad to see MRS pro-sctively taking up cases like this. If MRS need the support of an MP I am sure, between us, we could get an MP to demand an answer on our behalf.

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9 years ago

Simon, I am not against rehabilitating prison inmates,however being a former corrections officer the questions that these inmates ask and then to activley suggest a savings for insureance has me very concerned.A small percentage of inmates can turn their life around but I always remember a lot of inmates treated the prison as their home and always returned there. Using inmates to conduct market research is at best a chance for cheap labor at worst a receipe for dissaster.

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9 years ago

Last time I looked (just now, in fact, on Wikipedia) justice was defined as "a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law". So it's truly ironic that it's the Ministry of Justice refusing to confirm the research was ethical, and refusing to name the agency. That's quite apart from the Kafkaesque idea of the MoJ getting convicted criminals to phone up home owners and find out about their insurance (and no doubt other security) details. Why not give them the keys to the prison too! I hope the MRS will be pushing far harder than merely 'hoping' things are fine. We need to know the facts. This is a big story for our industry.

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8 years ago

The lunatics have truly taken over the asylum. Has our liberal society gone absolutely crazy. This situation is really straight out of a comedy sketch show - known criminals with lists of names and addresses and values of their house contents. What! Regardless of whether they are abiding by the MRS Code of Conduct, why would any right minded person sanction this activity. The G4S spokesperson quoted/ rsponding in the news has really missed the point.

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