By Claire West

A radical plan to introduce a work culture to the penal justice system, with prisoners offered training and the prospects of a job on release, have been unveiled by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke.

Addressing the Conservative conference in Birmingham, he announced that prison inmates will be expected to work a full 40 hour working week, with private firms setting up businesses behind bars, employing convicted criminals from 9 to 5 to produce goods which can be sold outside.

While prison wages could go up, some of the cash generated would be used to finance crime victims' funds.

'In order to raise those funds, we need to instil in our jails a regime of hard work. Most prisoners lead a life of enforced, bored idleness, where getting out of bed is optional. If we want to reduce the crimes these people will commit when they get out, and boost the amount we can provide for victim support, we need as many prisoners as possible to work hard for regular working hours,' Mr Clarke declared.

He added: 'We have to try to get those people who have the backbone, to go straight, to handle a life without crime when they have finished their punishment. So we will make it easier for prison governors to bring more private companies into their jails to create well-run businesses, employing prisoners in regular, 9 to 5 jobs.'

He cited schemes already being run by the shoe firm Timpsons, the National Grid, and Cisco Systems, which offer training and the prospect of a job and a life away from crime for inmates after their sentences have been completed.

'I hope to see many more companies like these stepping in and offering their expertise to organise productive industries in many of our prisons, Mr Clarke added.

Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs and Justice Parliamentary Committee Tom Brake has welcomed Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s plan to introduce a work culture into the prison system.

Mr Clarke told the Conservative party conference today that inmates will be expected to work a 40 hour working week and will be offered training with the prospect of a job on release. Some of the money generated would be used to finance crime victims' funds.

Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs and Justice Parliamentary Committee Tom Brake has welcomed Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s plan to introduce a work culture into the prison system.

Commenting on the speech Mr Brake said

"The announcement made today by Ken Clarke is very welcome for victims, prisoners and society. As the Liberal Democrats have long advocated, this will make make prison work to turn people away from a life of crime.

"By equipping prisoners with the skills they can use to get real jobs after they have served their time, the Coalition will turn prisons from colleges of crime into places of work.

"The creation of community sentences that serve as genuine alternatives to short-term prison sentences will ensure that people are not only punished for their crimes but are also making positive contributions to their communities.

"This is a real plan to slash re-offending rates and give people a way out of criminal behaviour."