Mistakes of the Past

By Diogenese - 24 Apr 18 10:58 AM

Many people with a conviction find it to be a life sentence in all but name.

I have yet to find anything in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that is actually meaningful to the rehabilitation of ex-offenders. The name says it all really, doesn't it? The perception will always be that one is dealing with a current offender rather than someone whose offending is in the past and never likely to be repeated (for the majority of us at least).

While Business in the Community is signing up increasing numbers of organisations to the Ban the Box initiative, there is still an inherent mindset around those who have been to prison. Like all sectors of society, there are degrees of offending, degrees of rehabilitation and degrees of commitment to a steady and productive future but the ROA is a one-size-fits-all approach that mirrors exactly what happens whilst in prison.

Meaningful activities turn out to be completely the opposite and agencies paid to provide assistance to move on, fail to do so. Whilst there are educational and vocational courses dotted around different establishments, they really amount to very little when it comes to finding a job.

Education to level 2 is all well and good, but for many people, it accomplishes nothing but ticks boxes designed to promote to society how well the justice system is doing. Participation in many of the activities and courses within prison requires any rational person to suspend all common sense and ignore the obvious flaws in the teachings.

There's nothing inherently wrong with what the system is trying to do but there is nothing in its approach that fosters any real accomplishment or that translates accomplishments into real-world acknowledgement.

I believe there would be beneficial to invite more employers to visit prisons, to see for themselves what is trying to be accomplished. To see how those who may be future employees are engaging with their progress, despite the flaws. They need to see and understand that not all of those they see may be knocking on their door for a job because many have connections to family businesses or are simply not interested in the type of approach they will encounter.

At the same time, the prison system needs to allow the individual to take credit for their successes instead of trying to always claim it for themselves while always crediting the resident with any failure, whether it be their fault or not.

The current system hides the success of the individual, perpetuating the belief that no one accomplishes anything in prison unless a whip and a chair are used to coerce and force them into compliance. Prison is a waste of time and for many individuals turning that wasted time into something engaging is a priority - they explore new avenues of education or even vocational courses as a means of keeping busy and occupying the mind. In the process, they may discover a brand new outlet and pursue it with vigour.

I can relate my experiences at HMP Ford where many good ideas never saw the light of day either because there was no funding (no matter how cheap) or because any success could not be attributed to the establishment.

The old belief that people should go to prison for punishment still perpetuates the thinking of both society as a whole and many in the prison service. The message should be that being in prison is the punishment and that many people work their socks off to leave the past behind, they take advantage of anything positive offered to them in order to better their chances later.

Any time something is reported in the media, it is with a negative slant. The general public believes that prisons are 5-star hotels with luxury accommodation, and wall-to-wall games consoles, digital TVs and satellite connections. No one ever dispels those beliefs and so prisoners live a life of luxury at the expense of the taxpayer. The fact that any privilege has to be earned and bought from one's own money and that there are limitations on what can be earned never seems to filter through to the media and so the lie is further perpetuated.

Having been hospitalised a number of times whilst in prison, I can attest to the change in attitude of many other patients and their visitors when they engage at a personal level. Putting aside the utter humiliation of being chained to the furniture and watched over by a couple of prison staff, those you encounter come to realise that we're all human beings and they should nothing but kindness.

If this could be distilled into meaningful engagement with the rest of society, then something positive could be achieved. What employers don't realise is that many of us have been working in society prior to being released, dealing with the public in charity shops or supporting children and vulnerable adults, engaging in community projects, going home to spend time with children and family and so much more.

The people they seek to marginalise are already out there, doing some wonderful things, helping people in many ways yet all we will hear about is that some mad slasher has absconded and so the rest of the prison population must be put to the torch, locked in the deepest, darkest dungeon and the key thrown away.
By Harmless - 17 Sep 18 8:55 AM

Thorswrath - 17 Sep 18 8:40 AM
Harmless - 16 Sep 18 10:25 PM
Thorswrath - 16 Sep 18 9:11 PM
Harmless - 16 Sep 18 5:45 PM
Thorswrath - 30 Apr 18 8:12 PM
Airlane - 30 Apr 18 12:26 PM
Does anyone out there have positive experiences with employers who state they will take ex-offenders? I've tried the prominent firms such as Virgin and Timpson but they rule out anyone with the letters SO after his name.

Well i'm only in employment because i go for jobs where they don't ask about previous or unspent convictions. I am not surprised that Timpson or Virgin don't take on SO's, i guess it may depend also on the type and severity of the crime which afforded the individual that label. However in my experience of trying to 'do the right thing' by going down the traditional route of employment and telling employers about my conviction, it amounts to nothing but set backs and rejections and it gets to the point where you have to start thinking about your own safety since you are someone who not only is divulging these details but providing them with your home address, e-mail address, phone number and you don't know who you are giving this information out to.

I wouldn't bother with recruitment agencies either, been there, tried it and failed. They will always tell you that having an unspent conviction won't be a barrier but it is. You can't really get any worse employability status in the job market than being an RSO.

If you have only just started looking for work then its going to be a long and arduous task...but not impossible. You need to find a way to get infront of the actual decision makers, not HR departments of big firms. If you find work where they don't ask about unspent convictions then you have to learn quickly how to be the 'grey man' and not get too close to people but close enough so you are socialble and polite at work. My rule these days is to never socialise outside of work with anyone i work with because there is too much at stake.

It all comes down to perseverence, how much rejection can you handle and still keep going? I even got a days work once with an agency in a parcel sorting depot slap bang in the middle of an industrial estate and the following day i stupidly told the recruiter i had an unspent conviction and what it was for, i was then told not to come in and further to that, was not paid for the work i done. When i asked him about it he said, 'i don't give a f##k, take me to court' this was from a big recruitment firm which i wont divulge the details on here. 

You will learn eventually what works and what doesn't.

Actually as an RSO, employment is an area where I've had no difficulty.

I was a self-employed consultant beforehand and then went back to being one after too.

Right after jail, I went to the job centre, was set up working for The Range (DIY type store), and my social worker was delighted.

I guess you just have to keep your mouth shut and roll with the new economy.

Well you are extremely lucky then. I remember my time at the pit of despair..sorry i mean job centre and i remember being told by one person that because i was MAPPA that basically 'you had better find something self employed as no one would employ you' i guess it depends on who you actually talk to, my local job centre was woefully ill equipped to deal with people who had unspent convictions, one guy even went away from his desk to try and find some piece of paper which had details of places that employ ex offenders, it was so out of date and it took him about half an hour to find it.

I agree, you have to basically keep your mouth shut when possible and just get on with it. I am very surprised you got a job that quick

I should add that I never mentioned the conviction even to the job centre. Rather, I got out of jail, was housed, and then set up on JSA by the housing\welfare folk, in the space of a day.

Job Centre put me on a work trial at The Range, with guaranteed interview at the end (should I complete the trial).

The solution I find is to just brazen it out and live as though you have no convictions.

Tweak the spelling of your name if it's in the papers.

If you get any kind of early release or time off for remand, put in an appearance among all your connections as soon as possible, so they remember seeing you at large during the time the papers say you were inside.

Don't rely on the job centre to find you work. Just write a decent CV and apply to businesses about town. 

It's good that you found employment however, a word of caution about 'brazening it out' i've had a lot of experience finding work with an unspent conviction and fair enough if it is only a short term placement whilst you get things in order you may get away with that approach. The problem is when PPU start getting involved, they will ask things like 'does the place you work know you have an unspent conviction' now if on their application form they ask directly and you have omitted that information, it would go down against you as being dishonest and you would also be committing an offence. Now if they don't ask then you are under no obligation to say and generally the PPU and probation are OK with that because those kind of roles tend to not involve much or any contact with the general public.

I'm just saying it's wise to be aware of potential consequences. I personally wouldn't take up a role in a public facing job, at least not where i live anyway due to the fact i know a lot of people having lived in my area all my life and if someone spotted me working at somewhere like a big supermarket i wouldn't put it past some people to go up to the manager and have a little word. This kind of thing has been known to happen before, in fact something similar happened to one of the gentleman in the ISOTP group i attended. Someone actually phoned up his place of work to tell them 'you have a convicted sex offender working for you' needless to say he lost his job after that phone call, and he was working in an office based role, i don't think he ever found out who it was.

I'll tell you a story! While I was working at The Range, someone actually phoned up the police\parole, and told them I was working there. They basically grassed me up to parole as though I were breaking parole. 

And that right there is an attitude I will never understand: " Ring ring! Hello police! I just spotted an ex-con stacking shelves, going straight, smiling and helping people! Isn't he supposed to be stalking children outside a playground? "  The more normal you are the more freaked out they are.

The police never interfered because they openly say they want me to work: "when you're working you're not offending".
Come to think of it the offender managing cops are the most reasonable part of my experience.

I have considered moving from Scotland to London. They cut more corners there allegedly. E.g. a chap I know who dropped out of my college and just walked straight into an IT\programming job there by showing them some of his work. City air makes free, as the Germans say.

The cops don't interrogate me much about work as I baffle them from the outset - I just say I'm abridging a book for some public figure, which is true (I'm finished at The Range - that was xmas work). Once I finish, I'll have my name in a book published during a time when papers say I was in jail (early release), providing a lifelong alibi (couldn't have been in jail).