Furlough money and even bonuses were handed to prisoners at the height of the Covid lockdowns.
The Daily Star Sunday can reveal that while millions of hard-working people faced pay cuts and hardship, some convicts cashed in.
Dozens of inmates at open jail Spring Hill on work placements received wages under the furlough scheme.
Their jobs were suspended on health grounds but lags still got their salaries through the Government bailout.
Other inmates around the country who are paid to make cushions and bedspreads were given £50 bonuses.
James Roberts of the TaxPayers’ Alliance said: “We’re paying prisoners public money to do nothing.
“Taxpayers who’ve had their backs to the wall during Covid shouldn’t be forced to fund criminals.”
Fine Cell Work dished out the dough to keep criminals chirpy in lockdown. A report said about 30 inmates at HMP Spring Hill, Bucks, were furloughed.
Some of the 330 lags held there were allowed to work outside the jail under the Release on Temporary Licence scheme.
When Covid ended that, dozens applied for 13 weeks’ worth of pay to be issued on the Government scheme.
They received the cash minus 40% for Victim Support under the terms of the Prisoners Earnings Act.
An Independent Monitoring Board report said: “For the 30 residents who were successful, about half were able to get varying refunds applied for by the prison before the Ministry of Justice stopped all such locally requested funds.”
The Government ruled in April last year prisoners could not be paid under the furlough scheme.
But it did a U-turn after a Howard League for Penal Reform campaign.
The Ministry of Justice said it had discouraged companies from entering the scheme but cannot stop it.
An MoJ spokesman added: “The vast majority of prisoners eligible for work placements cannot be furloughed. Those who can
will make a significant contribution to Victim Support.”
Fine Cell Work also kept their “stitchers’” bank balances topped up. It sells cushions, bags, purses and homeware, sewn and embroidered by prisoners.
They said: “Fine Cell Work sent every stitcher a £50 bonus to ensure they did not run out of phone credit and could keep in touch with families and friends.
“This gesture was massively appreciated by stitchers, but many more valued the fact that the organisation stayed in contact and continued to offer support.
“Most people are desperate to maintain links with ‘the real world’ and information about what is going on outside prison walls has become precious.”
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