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How Much Do Prisoners Get Paid in the UK in 2023?

In the UK, most prisoners are required to work and are paid for their labor. However, inmate pay rates are significantly lower than standard wages in the general economy. The exact amount prisoners earn depends on their specific job assignment within the prison. This article examines prisoner pay scales in UK jails and how they are determined.

Overview of UK Prisoner Pay Rates

The minimum wage for prisoners working regular prison jobs in the UK is currently £4 per week. However, there is a broad range of actual wages inmates can earn based on their role:

  • Basic prison work – around £8-15 per week
  • Vocational training – up to £20 per week
  • Highly skilled labor – up to £40 per week

Below are the typical pay grades for common UK prison work assignments in 2023:

Prison JobApprox. Weekly Wage

Inmates can also earn bonuses on top of their base wage in some cases.

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Factors Impacting Prison Wages

Several key factors determine a UK prisoner’s actual weekly earnings:

Job Role

As shown above, wages vary significantly based on the assigned job. More skilled roles earn upwards of £40.


Well-performing prisoners can earn bonuses above base pay rates. Poor performance can result in wage deductions.


Following prison rules and exhibiting good behavior is required to access the highest paying roles.

Sentence Length

Long-term inmates often get priority for the most stable, highest paying jobs.

So an inmate’s motivation level, skillset and sentence length all contribute to potential earnings.

How UK Prison Wages Are Paid

Instead of cash, prisoner wages in the UK are credited into private inmate accounts managed by the prison. Funds can then be spent on:

  • Canteen goods like food and toiletries
  • Phone credit
  • Saving accounts
  • Approved outside purchases and payments

A portion may go towards room and board costs as well. Wage deductions are made for taxes, victim support, and disciplinary fines.

Prisoners approaching release can sometimes receive a portion of their balance as cash. But overall, inmates have limited access to actual currency.

Comparisons to UK Minimum Wage

To provide context on UK prisoner pay rates, the current national minimum wage for standard employees is:

  • Age 23+ – £9.50 per hour
  • Age 21-22 – £9.18 per hour
  • Age 18-20 – £6.83 per hour

So even maximum prison wages equate to under £1 per hour in outside employment terms. However, inmates receive free room and board.

Additional Prison Work Opportunities

Beyond the basic facility jobs above, some inmates may qualify for additional work programs:

  • Day release into the community
  • Work placements with outside contractors
  • Commercial services like call centers
  • Self-employment projects making crafts or food
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These trust-based roles allow motivated prisoners to earn higher incomes. However, availability is extremely limited.


In summary, the vast majority of UK prisoners earn between £10-40 per week for prison jobs in 2023, far below normal UK minimum wage. Highly skilled workers can potentially earn bonuses taking pay up to £50-60 weekly. While inmate wages are very low, prison work provides structure and purpose along with useful skills for life after release. For motivated prisoners, vocational programs and outside work opportunities facilitated by the prison system offer the best earnings potential.

FAQs About Prisoner Pay in the UK

Are undocumented immigrant detainees paid for work?

Immigration detainees can apply for cleared paid work after 6 months if they cooperate with deportation processes.

What happens to a prisoner’s money upon release?

Leftover account funds are issued via bank transfer, payment card, or cash. Some may go to victim support.

Can wages be garnished for debts and child support?

Yes, mandatory deductions can be taken from prisoner earnings the same as civilian wages.

Are prisoners who work required to pay taxes?

Inmates earning over £10 per week must pay 20% income tax plus some National Insurance contributions.

Can prisoners earn qualifications through vocational programs?

Yes, many vocational jobs offer opportunities to gain formal qualifications that can aid post-release employment.

How are disputes over prisoner pay handled?

Inmates can file complaints which are reviewed by prison officials. Outside adjudication is not permitted.

What incentives exist for prison labor beyond wages?

More meaningful work assignments, qualifications earned, bonuses, and earlier parole are potential incentives beyond modest pay.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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