UK farmers say prisoners who are allowed to work on day release could help fill the post-Brexit void left by EU fruit pickers. Ministers are planning to relax the rules that will allow more offenders out to work while they complete their sentence.
Currently offenders in open prisons must wait a year before being allowed out to work in the community, but earlier this week David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, proposed they could be allowed to work on day to boost their job prospects.
Suzannah Starkey, who runs Starkey's Fruit in Northamptonshire, said she is currently in discussions about how to recruit prisoners to pick strawberries and apples at her farm come harvest season.
The farmer said she would be happy for them to start as soon as September, in order to harvest her Bramley apples, and that she had sought advice from John Timpson, who hires offenders and ex-offenders in his Timpson's shops.
She told The Sunday Telegraph: "I will be getting in touch with my local prison and tell them who I am and what I want, and they will go and find potential people for my fruit farm. They are free to work just like any other employee, they come here, work and go back with their pay packet at the end of the day. I think we should be as a society giving chances to these people. The prisons are full of people who really ought not to be there and it is up to society who has chosen to lock people away to give them a place in society."
Farmers are currently worried that post-Brexit it will be difficult to get seasonal workers for their farms.