Prisoners nearing the end of their sentence have been drafted in to help clean up the streets in Leeds.
The six-strong team from Armley Prison are working alongside Leeds City Council environmental services staff on a four-week work experience placement clearing flytipped waste and litter, cutting back overgrown vegetation from ginnels and paths and learning about environmental issues.
To help make the most of the voluntary placement, The Conservation Volunteers (TCV) provided training in emergency first aid, team building and the skills needed to carry out essential clean-up tasks.
It is hoped that the scheme will help bridge the gap between prison and getting into work on release. If successful, it could be taken up by other council services.
To be considered for the test programme, prisoners had to be working towards their release and were subject to an assessment for suitability by prison staff. Each potential candidate was also interviewed by council supervisors.
Coun Mark Dobson, executive member for the environment, said: “Working with our crews in environmental services, the participants will get a real insight into the inner workings of a big organisation, what we’re looking for in an employee and how we support our employees in return.
“This shows the commitment of the council to provide meaningful rehabilitation support, working in partnership with HMP Leeds.
“The participants will gain first hand experience of how much effort and expertise it takes to keep our communities clean and the level of commitment needed for them to become reliable recruits for any business in the future.”
Steve Freer, business development manager at the prison, said: “For ex-prisoners to be successful in what is already a very competitive job market, they need to be able to demonstrate they have a great work ethic and the desire to succeed.
“Voluntary work experience allows them to do this and is a key part of helping offenders.”