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Update on research – The right to a fair future: understanding the influence of an early life criminal record on adult life courses

Nicola Collett, a PhD student at Keele University, is currently researching the potential influence of a criminal record acquired between the ages of 10-25, later on in adulthood. Following a request for participants in February of this year, Nicola writes here about how her research is progressing.

I would first like to thank everyone who has contacted me wanting to take part in my research. I have received such a positive response to my call for participants and it has been a great source of encouragement highlighting just how important this topic is. Following my call for participants in February, I am excited to share with you an update on my PhD research exploring the potential influence of an early life criminal record later on in adulthood.

What have I done?

I have been travelling around the Midlands and North West conducting interviews with adult men and women living in the UK with a criminal record attained when aged twenty-five or under. Overall, I have met with fourteen people twice, in order to hear about their experiences with the criminal justice system, and how they feel their criminal record has influenced them later on in life. Of these fourteen, eight identified as female and six as male. Four had served custodial sentences and most had at least two non-custodial convictions. There was an age range from twenty-five to sixty-six.

Whilst often the conversations have been of a difficult nature, the interviews have been incredibly informative with people being able to reflect on both the positive and negative influences their experiences have had. People have discussed the barriers they have faced with regards to travel and visa applications, and access to employment and volunteering opportunities. More personally, people have shared the difficulties they have had establishing a new life and identity whilst having a criminal record ‘pulling them back to the past’. Disclosure can be incredibly disruptive and people have discussed anxiety and stress over people ‘finding out’ and how this might change people’s opinions of them. Some of the more positive reflections people have made include being able to understand and empathise with those in difficult circumstances and having the ability to help them either via a professional role or through being a positive role model

I would like to thank everyone who has taken part and shared their personal experiences with me.

What’s next?

In September I am travelling to Ghent to present some preliminary findings and reflections at the European Society of Criminology conference. At this event I will be putting forward the experiences of those who I have spoken to highlighting the current state of things in the UK. By doing so, I will be making people aware of the difficulties faced and putting forwards the voices of those who have taken part.  This will help to inform the research of a new European research working group looking to challenge some of the so-called ‘collateral consequences’ arising from criminal records.

I am currently working through all the interview material I have collected to identify the main themes and arguments I wish to make in my thesis. Writing has already begun and I aim to be near-completion by September 2020. After this, I will be developing a summary report to be shared with Unlock highlighting the key findings of the research.

I look forward to providing another update in the New Year.


Written by Nicola Collett


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