Tag Archives: criminal records

Why criminal records have to go

If you ask Lib Dems whether they suppport prison reform, they will say yes. A general chat about rehabilitation, drug laws, mental health funding and Scandenavia usually ensues – all of which I wholly endorse. But if we are really going to address our prison crisis, then criminal records are the elephant in the room.

Rehabilitation is about allowing people to become productive parts of society after they leave prison, and discouraging reoffending. One of the best ways to do this is to help people find employment (as page 8 of the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation document confirms). If someone lands a stable job after leaving prison, then of course they’re less likely to reoffend. Employment gives people structure, income and purpose. It’s common sense that it helps them reintegrate into society.

But if ex-prisoners have to disclose their criminal records as soon as they apply for a job, why are we surprised that so many of them remain unemployed? What incentive do employers have to take a chance on them, when the job market is so tough as it is? We seem to paradoxically believe that it’s important for ex-offenders to find work, but that no employer should have to risk hiring them. Employers might feel safer being able to sivve former criminals out without hesitation, but it’s agonizingly counter-productive for society. Poor rehabilitation leads to an increase in crime, and puts all of us in danger. Freezing ex-offenders out of the job market makes everyone less safe.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 22 Comments
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