Drug smuggler complains over low wages in prison

A PRISONER who tried to smuggle almost £2 million worth of crack cocaine into the UK has complained about the low wages he receives at a jail in Sussex.

Vincent Holyoake, who lived in De Cham Road, St Leonards, is currently serving a 17-year sentence at Ford Open Prison, near Arundel. He moaned, saying the wages he gets for working are lower than at most other prisons.

Holyoake made his comments in a letter in this month’s Inside Time magazine, a publication for people serving sentences.

He wrote: “There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that claims to be promoting resettlement but has practises in place which make it hard, for long-term prisoners especially. In a category B prison (Swaleside) in 2005 I was earning £20 per week. In a category C prison (Maidstone) earnings were around £15 per week. But at Ford, a category D prison, the average weekly wage is £9.50.

“From that wage £1 per week is taken for the television which I have been paying for the last seven years, which leaves £8.50 per week out of which I have to maintain contact with family and friends on an overpriced phone system and make minimal purchases from an increasingly overpriced canteen.”

Holyoake, 53, was arrested at the Channel Tunnel in Dover in 2004 after trying to bring in the cocaine, which had a street value of £1,784,838, in specially-adapted wine boxes in his lorry.

He was jailed in November 2004 after a crown court trial.

Holyoake added in his letter: “It goes without saying that I cannot afford day or overnight release, which is such a fundamental part of resettlement. The train fare to my home town is £15 for a day return and train fares are set to rise again. There are no buses running anywhere near the prison and the nearest town is a 30-minute walk away. I could take a day release and walk to the local town, but then what do I do once I get there?

“I’ve got no money to buy anything and how many times can you visit a small town and just sit on a bench watching the world go by before you come to the attention of the local police? Surely if successful resettlement is what the prison system wants to provide then the first thing they should do is scrap the prisoners’ pay structure and come up with a better one.”

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The Government expects prisons to be places of hard work where prisoners pay their debt to society. Governors decide how much prisoner workers earn, with levels varying from prison to prison - the average weekly pay is £9.60.

“Some offenders in open prisons are assessed as suitable for working in the community, in preparation for their release.

“Those who earn more than £20 a week will have a percentage of their wages deducted for the benefit of victims. We hope will raise £1 million for Victim Support this year.”