Letter: Captive workers who earn 16p an hour

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The Independent Online
Sir: Following your report 'Little spenders push pocket money past pounds 2 barrier' (5 April), wherein it was claimed that children between the ages of five and 16 have benefited from a 9 per cent pay increase - 2.5 per cent above the rate of inflation - perhaps now the Home Secretary will consider raising prisoners' pocket money?

I receive pounds 4.80 for five days' labour over a 30-hour week. This breaks down to 16p per hour (and is less than half the minimum wage of pounds 10 recommended by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim, in 1988).

Today the canteen (prison shop) announced that the price of Old Holborn tobacco has risen by 6p per 12.5g pack, which brings it up to pounds 7.04 for 50g (the lesser equivalent of 2oz, which in 1973-74 cost 72p, when my weekly wage was pounds 1.50).

I can no longer afford to buy my weekly tobacco ration. The Home Secretary imports cheap foreign tobacco, which is a very poor substitute, rather than import the higher pay rates that prisoners experience in the rest of Europe. I am reduced to begging from family and friends - which is just like those impoverished at the bars, 200 years ago, asking passers-by for subsistence.

Yours faithfully

JOHN HIRST

HM Prison Nottingham

5 April

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