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Prisoner choir sings to the tune of Birmingham's business

Directors of businesses in Birmingham go behind bars today to listen to Birmingham’s prison choir and have their eyes opened to the skills prisoners could potentially bring to their enterprises.

Regional director for the Institute for Directors in the West Midlands, Calum Nisbet, has brought thirty local businesses behind bars at G4S-managed HMP Birmingham to take a closer look at the skills inside the prison community. They will listen to a selection of pieces performed by the Birmingham Prison choir, run by charity Choirs Beating Time and afterwards will have the opportunity to meet prisoners who are soon to be released and could be an asset to their organisations. 

It is estimated that reoffending costs the taxpayer between £9 – 13 billion per year* with 46 per cent of adults reconvicted within a year of release* and for those with a sentence of less than 12 months this rises to 60 per cent*, with unemployment being a significant barrier to rehabilitation.

Director at HMP Birmingham, Peter Small said: 

“We must strive to do all we can to reduce the chances of prisoners returning to custody and initiatives like the prison choir are a chance for prisoners to develop soft skills that employers are looking for, like team work, communication and commitment to a project.” 

“To ensure we give local businesses the best opportunity to employ prisoners on release, we will identify and train prisoners in an attempt to meet their requirements and facilitate meetings and interviews for potential candidates. 

“There is a lot of potential within HMP Birmingham and it’s great to have an opportunity to show employers what we can do and see if we can change attitudes towards employing ex-offenders. It’s in no one’s interest to write people off because they have been in custody.”

Regional director for the Institute of Directors in the West Midlands, Calum Nisbet said:

“It has been our objective for some time to encourage local business leaders to become more engaged with the local community and today is an ideal opportunity to bring businesses into meet people they would never normally connect with.

“While some larger businesses are already involved with training and recruiting prisoners on release, there is a real opportunity for local businesses to utilise the talents and skills that exist on their door steps.”

CEO and Co-Founder of Choirs Beating Time, Heather Phillips, said:

“It’s profoundly moving seeing the effect on the men and their families when the choir performs, not a dry eye in the house, but they need employers to see their potential and work ethic to get long term benefit out of this project.”

Group People Director at Greggs and Chair of the Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending, Roisin Currie said:

“As the second biggest employer of ex-offenders, we believe that the development of soft skills, like those encouraged in the prison choir, are key.

“Focus needs to be on preparing people for the world of work, turning up, team work, working in a structured environment, it’s these behaviours rather than technical skills that are often the barrier to finding work for people leaving prison.”