Wednesday 18 May 2016 3:27 pm

Entre-perp-neurs? Turning prisoners into entrepreneurs could save the UK economy a billion pounds

Training prisoners to become entrepreneurs could save the nation more than a billion pounds and reduce the likelihood of reoffending, a new report claims.

Introducing entrepreneur training for offenders and providing funding for schemes could save £1.4bn from the government's annual £4.5bn reoffending bill.

Entrepreneurship could be the answer to the significant barriers former inmates face when returning to work and could even be well suited to it, the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) calculates.

Creating a nation of Entre-perp-neurs, could reduce the rate of reoffending from 46 per cent to just 14 per cent, with the potential of creating nearly 11,000 new businesses each year.

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The group's survey of inmates at several prisons found that 62 per cent already had an idea for a business while 80 per cent said they wanted to run their own business or be self-employed, while a similar proportion of ex-offenders said the same.

“Several studies have shown that prisoners and entrepreneurs present similar personality traits,” said CFE director Matt Smith.

“Some have even gone so far as to suggest that many prisoners are just entrepreneurs born under different circumstances. Often, prisoners don’t want to re-offend, but are released into the outside world with few – if any – employment opportunities, and are left without much choice. Entrepreneurship programmes would enable ex-prisoners to channel the skills and motivation they already have into building a successful business.”

A further survey of British entrepreneurs found 89 per cent would be interested in mentoring ex-offenders.

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"Not introducing a prison entrepreneurship programme would be such a waste of both money and potential,” said CFE chairman Luke Johnson.

The Prime Minster David Cameron has promised to address the high rate of reoffending and the government today announced in the Queen's Speech plans for prisons to publish data on reoffending rates and inmates' employment after release.

The report was welcomed by prisons minister Andrew Selous.