Legal reforms to ‘remove stigma’ from ex-prisoners seeking work

The Canary

Some former convicts who were sentenced to more than four years will no longer have to tell employers after a certain amount of time has passed.

It is hoped the reforms will “break barriers” to employment faced by ex-offenders who want to turn their lives around.

The new legislation, which changes what must be disclosed to employers, will not apply where offences attract the most serious sentences, including life, or for serious sexual, violent and terrorism offences, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.

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In addition to the rule change for sentences of more than four years, the period of time for which shorter sentences and community sentences have to be revealed to employers will be scaled back.

The MoJ said the exact length of these “rehabilitation periods” will be determined following discussions with stakeholders.

Currently, where a sentence of more than four years is passed, crimes committed decades earlier, including those committed as a child, must be disclosed to employers for the remainder of the offender’s life.

The reforms will only apply to non-sensitive roles, with separate and stricter rules for those working with children or vulnerable adults, as well as national security roles or positions of public trust.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “The responsibility, structure and support provided by regular work is an essential component of effective rehabilitation, something which benefits us all by reducing reoffending and cutting the cost of crime.

“That’s why we are introducing reforms to break barriers faced by ex-offenders who genuinely want to turn their lives around through employment.

“While these reforms will help remove the stigma of convictions, we will never compromise public safety.

“That is why separate and more stringent rules will continue to apply for sensitive roles, including those which involve working with children and vulnerable adults.”

Penelope Gibbs, chairwoman of the Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said: “Currently anyone convicted of shop-lifting twice aged 12 must disclose that when applying to be a traffic warden aged 55.

“Such laws prevent people moving on in their lives. We welcome the Government’s proposal to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

“This will help people get employment, but will not wipe the slate clean. Shortening rehabilitation periods should be a first step in reform of whole criminal records disclosure system.”

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    1. Hmm. This is a small step in the right direction. There is still the problem of what a man who has spent, say, three years pointlessly locked in a cell would tell a potential employer who asks, “Why did you leave your last job? What about this three-year gap in your CV? And do you have recent references, please?” Lying is not an option. The truth is that we, as a society, don’t know what to do with ex-offenders. Do we relish punishing them until they die? But that means we have to keep paying them to do nothing all day because no-one will employ them.

      The alternatives include doing away with our current vast overuse of the criminal justice system and finding better ways to deal with people who cause harm. After all, if a multiple, unrepentant sex offender can make it to the White House, there’s hope for anyone.

    2. I think it’s a ploy to deny more benefits. At the moment as the law stands, if you’re an ex-con there’s not a lot the government can do if you tell the DWP, “Nobody will take me on.” But removing the need to disclose your record is taking away one reason you may find yourself unemployable. It won’t necessarily make it much easier for you to find a job, but it’ll make it much easier to deny you benefits if you remain unemployed. They’ll say there’s no excuse now they’ve removed “the biggest barrier”.

      I think the end result will be savings on benefits; fiddled unemployment figures; a resulting return-to-crime problem; and more profits for private prisons (and imprisonment itself cuts the unemployment figure).

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