Under the scheme, those who immediately plead guilty to their crime will have their Nectar card swiped with 1,000 introductory points that they can use to buy fags, phone credit or pornography. Alternatively they can save up their rewards for bigger treats such as a set of glass tumblers or a day trip to Legoland.
‘The Nectar points scheme represents a major re-think in sentencing policy,’ explained Mr Clarke. ‘Previously I was trying to reduce the number of prisoners, but following a chat with David Cameron I now understand that government policy is to get as many of them through the doors as possible. We need to increase our customer base, and a loyalty card scheme is the best way of achieving that.’
Serving prisoners will also be able to earn Nectar points, with 500 points awarded for good behaviour, 1,000 points for grassing up a mate and a whopping 3,000 points for confessing to a string of crimes that they didn’t commit. Every few months prisoners will also get sent promotional vouchers including offers such as ‘250 extra points with your next burglary’ and ‘1,500 points when you spend 3 years or more inside’.
However, the scheme is already facing harsh criticism. ‘Prisoner Nectar points might sound like a good idea,’ said Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, ‘but the end result will be higher re-offending rates as newly-released prisoners simply go out and commit more crimes in order to get enough points for a six-month subscription to Golf Monthly Magazine.’
Early problems with the scheme have already emerged with prisoners trading in contraband loyalty cards, many of them doubling up with Tesco Clubcard points, while white-collar criminals are refusing to participate altogether and are getting their deliveries smuggled in by Ocado. The government also faces calls for a full-scale public inquiry after one group of prisoners secretly stockpiled their Nectar points and tried to escape by converting them into an easyJet flight to Alicante.
‘Like all new policies there will be some teething troubles,’ said Mr Clarke. ‘But the great thing about this scheme is that it rewards loyalty. Even if a few prisoners do escape they’ll have to come back to redeem their points.’