New scheme between HMP Hewell and LettUs Grow sees prisoners trained in farm management, plant science and food safety

Prisoners are to be trained in cutting-edge farming techniques as part of a government drive to get offenders into work and cut crime.

The scheme, being run at HMP Hewell in Worcestershire, is part of a trial between the prison and farming technology company LettUs Grow, which will see prisoners grow leafy greens, salad and herbs in high-tech vertical farms.

In the farms, vegetables are grown in compact towers using aeroponics using an air or mist environment rather than soil. The technology produces more plants, more quickly and with 98 per cent less water than conventional methods, the government pointed out.

Most importantly, the scheme will train prisoners up in the jobs of the future, such as farm management software, plant science and food safety. This will help them find a job on release in new and emerging technologies and dramatically reduce their chances of reoffending.

Prisons minister Stuart Andrew said: ”This innovative scheme is just the tip of the iceberg in our drive to equip prisoners with the practical skills they need to get a job on release – ultimately cutting crime and keeping the public safe. Up there with education, family ties and addiction treatment, stable work holds the key to a life free from crime and safer communities for us all.”

Ralph Lubowski, governor of HMP Hewell, added: ”I am delighted to partner with LettUs Grow in this fantastic initiative, which will give our prisoners the opportunity, confidence and training to turn their lives around. Vertical farming is an innovative, emerging industry and this partnership highlights our commitment to ensuring that prisoners are skilled up to find work on release.”

The Ministry of Justice noted that the latest figures show the number of former offenders in work six weeks after release has increased by nearly half, whereas proven reoffending has fallen to just over 25 per cent.