Meet Pete, the man with a mission

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE Who Do Very Unusual Jobs Indeed: No 23.

A man who is unofficial careers adviser for large prisons.

'There are a lot of very talented people in prison. It's my aim to find good jobs for them when they come out. Of course, there are also a lot of very untalented blokes in prison. It's my aim to help all these people get back into crime as soon as possible, if that's what they want.'

The speaker is a well-dressed man of about 30 who admits to being called Pete, but doesn't like speculation about his surname. He is a talent scout for a large crime syndicate, though he prefers to call it the 'parent company'. He recruits likely people when their time is up.

'It stands to reason that the best recruiting ground for villains is in jail, right? Because everyone in jail is there because they've done something wrong. Well, that's not counting all the hundreds of innocent people who are in there because of miscarriages of justice, but I'm talking about the thousands who are in there because they've done something wrong. Namely, getting caught. And who want to get out, and start again without getting caught this time.

'You hear a lot of do-gooders talking about prisoners coming out of jail and drifting back into crime. They don't approve. Well, they might be surprised to hear that I don't approve of it either. No point in drifting back into crime. What you've got to do is get purposefully back into crime. And that's what I'm there to help them do.'

The way it works, apparently, is that when Pete hears on the grapevine that a certain character is about to get out, he goes to see him and has a little consultation about job prospects. If the man is serious about working in crime again, Pete fixes up job interviews and useful meetings when he comes out.

'Well, it's no use letting a man go to bits when he comes out of jail and take up some dead-end job like street cleaning when he could be doing something responsible such as VAT fraud. It's criminal the way we let people go down the drain like that. What we want to see is people properly rehabilitated in their old environment, happily working at their old skills.'

What sort of range of skills is available to him?

'In the old days, it was a bit limited but nowadays there's an exciting new variety. I put this down chiefly to the fact that after the recent spate of City prosecutions we're getting a very high standard of businessman locked up in there, all raring to go when they get out, and highly versed in international loopholes, off-shore investment and what have you.

'One bloke I was talking to the other day was telling me that his colleagues in Brixton were really depressed over the British Airways vs Virgin case. How could BA have been so clumsy with their dirty tricks, he said. Didn't they have the calibre of operative out there in the free world who could handle things like that? Why, he could think of at least five people at present serving sentences who could have made a better fist of it. I tell you, there are talented people in there just longing to get out and get on with it.

'Mark you, some of them practise even before they get out. One well-known financier on my books, no name, no pack drill, is helping to rehabilitate himself by doing some work on the prison accounts - he's putting all the inflow and what have you on computer. The governor is well pleased with him. What the governor doesn't know is that this bloke is quietly diverting 1 per cent of the prison turnover into his own bank account, from inside the prison. That's what I call enterprising. I think we'll be able to use him when he reappears.'

How does Pete actually get to meet his clients?

'Oh, various guises. Sometimes I'm a visiting solicitor, sometimes a relative and occasionally a stockbroker.'

A stockbroker?

'Oh, yes. Some of the more respectable City prisoners have quite sizeable share portfolios waiting for them outside, so they are entitled to consult with their stockbroker now and again - bit like being entitled to talk to a solicitor or doctor, really.

'The only ones I have trouble with are the talented ones who have been got at by the do- gooders and now want to go straight when they get out. Sometimes I have the devil's own job persuading them not to throw it all away on some postgraduate course or mature student madness. Oh well, can't win 'em all.'

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