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I was told that my historic convictions would stop me working in a prison, but is that really the case?

Like many people who’ve had personal experience of the criminal justice system, Victoria wanted to help others who found themselves in a similar situation to the one she’d been in. Sadly, she discovered that the Prison Service were more likely to consider her historic convictions rather than judge her on her skills and experience.


I applied for a job as a functional skills tutor working in a privately run prison. The interview went well and later in the day I received a call to confirm that I had the job. Great! Or so I thought.

I needed an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check and the education department at the prison also sent me a security vetting form to complete. I have convictions from twenty and forty years ago and I knew that I would have to disclose them but as I hadn’t received any prison sentences or been barred from working with children or adults, I assumed at that stage that I wouldn’t have any problems.

I’ve done a lot of voluntary work with children,helping them with their literacy and numeracy skills and I’ve worked with people suffering from dementia and alzheimers. I thought this would increase my skills and knowledge and would improve my chances of getting into paid work.

As I read through the very long, detailed and complicated security vetting form from the prison, I thought it might save a lot of time if I spoke to the education department at the prison and tell them about my previous convictions. The lady I spoke to at the prison told me that in her experience she was 80 – 90% sure that the job offer would be revoked as a result of my convictions. I therefore decided not to put myself through the ordeal and withdrew my application.

Having had my confidence knocked, I was very anxious about applying for other jobs. Eventually I was offered a job as a tutor at a private language college. I disclosed my convictions to the manager during the interview and she was a lot more relaxed about them, especially as they were so historic. Despite getting the job, things didn’t really work out as I had expected (for a variety of reasons) and I resigned.

My experiences over the last few years have left me in a really bad place. I can’t seem to stop crying and just can’t cope with anything right now. I’ve seen my doctor and been put on anti-depressants which I’m hoping will help me.

I’ve tried so hard over the past 7 years to get a job. I’ve re-trained as a foreign language tutor and took other qualifications not thinking at the time that I would have any problems getting into this type of work.

I love teaching English as a foreign language and I’m good at it. I have the skills and abilities to be a great teacher and could have easily done the job in the prison. Unfortunately from what I’ve heard, the system doesn’t seem to want me.

By Victoria (name changed to protect identity)


A comment from Unlock

We’d always encourage people to apply for any job which they believe they have the necessary skills and experience to do. If you want to find out whether your criminal record will affect your chances of success, make sure that you speak to the relevant person within the organisation, for example an HR Manager. Although Victoria was told by a member of the education department that there was an 80 – 90% chance of the job offer being revoked, she may have found herself in the 10 – 20% that was successful.

Useful links

  1. Comment – Let us know your thoughts on this post by commenting below
  2. Information – We have practical self-help information on prison vetting
  3. Discuss this issue – There are some interesting discussions on specific occupations and professions on our online forum.

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