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Employers need to learn how to see the person and not just the crime

Despite achieving considerable success since his release from prison, Jack has found that as the positions he applies for have become more senior, the more likely employers are to do criminal record checks. Sadly he’s found that rather than base their decision on his employment history, the majority of employers can’t see past his criminal record.

My criminal record started when I was 12 years old while growing up in children’s homes. By the age of 18 I had convictions for burglary, assault and had served time in youth detention centres and borstals.

At the age of 20, I was standing in the dock at the Old Bailey receiving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery and attempted murder.

After 20 years in prison, I was released when I was 40 years old. I walked out of prison on a Friday and met a girl two days later. This may sound quick, but I fell totally and utterly in love with her and she turned my life around.

I wanted to be the best I could be for her and go straight. So, aged 40, I got my first EVER job working as a bin man.

My girlfriend and I got married 12 months later and soon after, she gave birth to my beautiful son. With a wife and child to support, I knuckled down and started a career in facilities management. I started at the bottom as an industrial cleaner and within 2 years I’d worked my way up to area manager. I was responsible for 200 staff and 20 sites. From here, I accepted a job overseas and the family and I lived abroad for a while.

Upon our return to the UK, I started applying for senior facilities management jobs and very quickly secured a new position for myself. I’d only been there a couple of days and was going through induction when I was told:

We just need to do your criminal record check

There’d been no mention of this on the application form or during the interview. I knew that I’d have to disclose and did so straight away only to be told that the job offer was going to be revoked.

I was offered another three jobs after this and every time I was told that I’d need a criminal record check. Needless to say, another three job offers were withdrawn. I decided to apply for a supervisory role rather than a senior role and again successfully got through interviews with another two companies. As soon as I disclosed, I was told that the companies were unable to employ me.

I need to support my family and so I now work in the most horrific job imaginable, at a waste recycling plant working 12 hour shifts in 120-degree heat doing back breaking manual work. The work is brain numbing and I feel so depressed and demoralised. I spent over 20 years in prison being punished for my actions and now all I want to do is be a contributing member of society, providing for my wife and child.

I can promise you that I would never ever commit a crime or break the law again as I’d never want to let my wife and son down but, I can see why people do. Prison is meant to rehabilitate you so that when you leave you can lead a law-abiding and industrious life. The problem is that once you disclose your criminal record, very few people are willing to give you the chance you need.

I understand the arguments that are taking place at the moment around minor offences being removed from standard and enhanced DBS checks and I totally support that. However, I feel that the reforms need to go further than that so people with more significant and serious criminal records can also benefit -maybe this is amending the time it takes for convictions to become spent. Perhaps we should just be doing more to educate employers to see the person and not just the crime.

By Jack (name changed to protect identity)


Comment from Unlock

Jack’s story underlines why we’re pushing for further reform to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. As it stands, sentences of over 4 years in prison can never become spent, no matter what positive work people do after release. We believe there should be a point at which people like Jack should no longer have to disclose their criminal record. Before that point, it’s also important that, as the title of this post says, employers see the person not the crime.


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