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Work, exercise and education


All convicted prisoners may be required to work unless the medical officer has certified the prisoner unfit for all or a specific type of work. It is a disciplinary offence to refuse to work or intentionally to fail to work properly. Account should be taken of your religion so that you are not required to work on recognised days of religious observance. Although Article 4 of the Convention prohibits slavery and forced labour, requiring convicted prisoners to perform work as part of their sentence is expressly permitted by the Convention.

The Prison Rules give the maximum working day as ten hours, but do not give a minimum working day. Prison workshops are exempt from the provisions of the Factories Act: if injured at work, prisoners must rely upon a civil claim in negligence in order to claim damages for any injuries. In practice, governors are required to observe the requirements of the Factories Act and the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974; governors are also instructed to give Health and Safety Executive inspectors access to all areas of the prison.

If found guilty of a disciplinary offence, prisoners may be excluded from working with other prisoners as part of the punishment for a maximum of 21 days and/or have their earnings stopped or reduced. Wages can only be stopped to their full value for a period of 42 days, but the length of this punishment can be spread out over 84 days if the punishment is a loss of half of one's earnings over this period of time.


Convicted prisoners no longer have a statutory right to one hour's exercise each day. There is a right to one hour's physical exercise a week and it is aimed to allow one hour's exercise in the open air a day if circumstances permit. Health care advice is that this period should not normally be reduced to less than half an hour a day.


NOMS is under a general duty to provide evening classes at every prison and to encourage prisoners to profit from the educational facilities provided. This does not mean that there is a right to the educational course of choice, and the prison authorities have a wide discretion as to what educational facilities they provide and who is to benefit from them.

Local education authorities provide a programme of evening classes in all prisons, but classroom space is often limited. Facilities for daytime study and remedial teaching vary. The governor is responsible for assessing a prisoner's needs and suitability for further study. He or she can release individuals from work duty for study. Permission from the prison authorities can be obtained to take a correspondence course and long-term prisoners often study Open University courses leading to a degree. All prisons have at least one library.

Prisoners of Compulsory School Age

Governors are instructed that prisoners of compulsory school age should have educational and vocational training for at least 15 hours a week and should be denied education only as a last resort. If there were inadequate educational facilities offered to young offenders of statutory school age, this would potentially be in breach of Article 2 of the second protocol of the Convention.

The governor may suspend or end attendance at educational classes if he or she believes it necessary to prevent disruption or for security reasons, or if a disciplinary punishment, for example segregation, prevents it. However, removal from education may not in itself be ordered as a punishment.

Reading and Writing Materials

Prisoners are entitled to have supplied at their own expense, books, newspapers, writing materials and other means of occupation, except those that appear objectionable. Generally, material should only be denied if it includes matter that incites or involves criminal or disciplinary offences. While it may be permissible to withhold a particular issue of a publication, a blanket ban may be subject to challenge in the courts.
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