The management of criminal activity in most countries focuses on three areas: prevention, punishment and rehabilitation. In the UK, there are many charities and organisations that concentrate on the rehabilitation of offenders after they have received their punishment, yet the fact remains that many employers are reluctant to accept someone with a criminal record. Despite this, returning to work is considered to be one of the best ways of rehabilitating offenders and preventing re-offending. As reported in The Metro, this is exactly what Christopher Stacey discovered when he was released from prison for theft. To complicate matters further, many ex-offenders are unclear about when it is no longer necessary to disclose their offences to potential employers and insurers.
Christopher Stacey now works for a charity, Unlock, or the National Association of Ex-Offenders, which is trying to fight for reform of the current UK law that concerns rehabilitation; The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974. As the law currently stands, Unlock believes that the length of time ex-offenders need to disclose their past is far too long and often unclear. A shorter time frame, or exceptions for those who have proved that they are ready and willing to go back to work, would ensure that more ex-offenders could return to the workforce and thereby avoid re-offending. The government has announced that The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will be reformed, but changes have not yet been forthcoming.
As part of their work, Unlock has recently introduced the British Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator. Although this doesn’t shorten disclosure time, it at least allows ex-criminals to find out exactly when they can stop disclosing their past. People working with ex-offenders can register to use the tool, which then allows them to inform their clients exactly when they can apply for jobs without worrying about disclosure. Corporate accounts are also available on application. The hope is that this will remove some of the stigma surrounding those who are trying their hardest to re-establish their place in society after having committed a crime.
For those who think that having to disclose a criminal offence will never happen to them or anyone they know, it is worth considering some basic figures about offending in the UK. According to statistics collected by Unlock, “33 per cent of males born in 1953 had been convicted in England and Wales by 2006 of at least one standard list offence before the age of 53.” For women, the figure is lower at 9%. Other figures show that in 2006, 8 million people were on the UK Government’s Offender Index.
Crime isn’t always a deliberate action; sometimes it happens by accident, or under the influence of alcohol, so those who disapprove of others having the chance to reintegrate into society may need to rethink their opinion. Of course, there need to be boundaries, but perhaps if those who want to return to work without being stigmatised are given the opportunity to do so, it will prevent them, and others, from returning to crime. Unlock’s launching of the Criminal Record Disclosure Calculator may only be a small move towards helping willing ex-offenders, but hopefully it will herald more changes in the future.