Fair opportunities: employing prison leavers

by Jun 18, 2021News

The second in a series of I&D events hosted by the City & Guilds Foundation went live on Tuesday the 8th of June, this time focusing on inclusion in the context of employing people with lived experience of the justice system. This event featured guest speakers Surini Ranawake of the New Futures Network, James Timpson of Timpson Group, and Claire Wood of Deloitte.

In case you missed it, you can catch up in full by watching the recording, but here’s a quick rundown of some of the panel’s key messages. (Note: all of the points made in this post belong to the speakers, not myself; I’ve just tried to provide an accurate summary here.)

Watch the recording of the event

​​Challenging misconceptions

Although assumptions about prisoners tend towards the extreme, negative end of the scale, the reality is that many people who go through the prison system are there for low-level offences and partly because they’ve faced disadvantages early in life and/or difficult circumstances beyond their control.

Contrary to popular belief, these individuals often have valuable skills, education and experience gained from before serving their sentence, as well as from training that they’ve received while in prison (in some cases, to industry standards).

Above all, they’re incredibly motivated – they’re keen to learn, contribute and develop so that they can find secure employment to support themselves and their families, and be able to reintegrate into their communities. In fact, 82% of employers who responded to a New Futures Network survey said that prison leavers were their most highly motivated employees.

​Providing the right support

​Mentoring can be a powerful way of helping people to make contacts and access networks that they would have no way of reaching otherwise, so that they can find opportunities for training and work. 

One of the most effective ways to bring prison leavers on board is to bring them into full-time employment as soon as possible, allowing them to adjust to the rhythm of working life and quickly gain a clear objective of what to do on the job.

People with previous experience of the justice system deserve to be treated the same as anyone else: with fairness and respect. Additionally, there are some issues where extra consideration may be needed, such as disclosure and confidentiality of an individual’s conviction history – guidance on how to navigate these is available to employers (e.g. resources provided by the charity Unlock​).

Focusing on the future

Ultimately, prospective employees should be judged on their potential, not their past. Prison leavers represent a wide pool of talent that’s typically overlooked when hiring, but are able to bring incredible enthusiasm and capability to an organisation when given the chance.​

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