I made a mistake

I made a mistake, got convicted and spent time in prison serving my sentence and that should have been the end of it; but in reality the real sentence only started after my release from prison.

Facing family and neighbours is hard enough, still being judged for your crime but the real problem starts when trying to find a job, its hard at the best of times but with a criminal record, there is  nearly no chance.

If you lucky enough and fill out an application form, you come to the dreaded question “Have you ever been convicted of an criminal offence “ well you have no choice then to tick yes and at that moment you already know that there is no chance  of getting that job .Because all they see  is at tick against the yes box, they don’t know you and don’t even read further on to see what qualification you have.

I was lucky to get an interview and the dreaded question was never ask. I got the job worked hard and was even praised by the area manager for my hard work.  After six  weeks I felt really settled and comfortable in my role and got on well with every one. Until one morning arriving to work my manager ask me to come and see her, she had a computer print out about my crime and ask me to explain it to her which I did but I still lost my job.

Back to square one, knowing that this will happen all over again. I thought spending time in prison I would have paid for the crime, apparently not, will I ever? I don’t thinks so, if society has got anything to do with it . So how will an ex-offender ever be able to become a upstanding member of society and a taxpayer again?  Having a job would surely stop re-offending.

An ex- offender has to overcome so many hurdles when trying to rebuild there lives without any one else adding to that task . If I discriminate against some one on the grounds of race or sex,  I would commit an criminal offence, so what makes this legal discrimination fair and above the law?

By ex-offender, who  for obvious reasons, does not wish to give her name .

Legal discrimination - is it fair?

In the last few weeks before you leave prison you are told that you have paid your debt to society, served your time, now go and rejoin the world and once again become a member of society and get on with your life again, you are a free man.  Perhaps they should say that now the next part of the sentence begins, you wont see the bars, but you will feel them, you will be victimised, looked down upon, judged and discriminated against by all manner of society, the system and society now wants its pound of flesh, so go away and don’t come back.

There are some that leave and just slip back into life, sadly these are not that many, most if not all who leave prison suffer some form of unfair discrimination and in many cases from people and areas you would least expect.

Conviction history remains one of the few, if not the only, area where employers can legally but not morally discriminate against applicants when recruiting. This has a negative impact on employment rates amongst ex-offenders and causes not only problems for the individual, but  also for the families, employers and society as a whole

One of the major causes of re-offending is lack of employment, which means being on benefit, housing issues, and other related social and economic problems.  It is no surprise that so many feel totally dejected and rejected when so many wish to re-build their lives and once again become members of society.  Most if not all ex-offenders do not want special treatment or to be felt sorry for, all they ask is for the chance to get on. to be treated fairly and not judged by their past. If society wants people coming out of prison to become a fully functioning member once again, then society needs to be prepared to give us a second chance.

Despite the social and economic benefits of helping ex-offenders into employment 75% openly admit discrimination against them.

An estimated 9.2 million people in theUK have a criminal record, (the estimated population of greater London is only 8.4 million)

The cost of re-offending, courts, prison, etc is in excess of 11 billion !!

(To put this into some context:

the Crossrail project in London      13.2 billion approx

public health services                       2.7 billion

extra cash for flood defences          140 million

council tax support                            3.7 billion)

Ex-offenders  are 8 times more likely to be unemployed and this should be addressed

If re-offending costs could be reduced by even a small amount think of the saving and the better use of tax payers money.

74% of newly released remain jobless.

65% of young offenders are jobless before prison.

60% re-offending rate amongst short term prisoners.

It is estimated that over 80% of people leaving prison will be on some form of benefit during the first year, roughly 170.000 people a year and increasing.

The  social exclusion unit noted many prisoners see a criminal record as a major barrier to employment, 57% had experienced trouble finding work on release due to  having a criminal record.

The Scottish parliament in its code of practice includes a persons offending history should not deny the equality of opportunity.

NACRO says employers are willing to employ ex-offenders but are reluctant to develop policies for their employment, to do so openly could lead to getting a critical and hostile response from the general public.  These are some figures for employer perceptions:

60% say they perform better than non offenders.

Only 10% will never employ an ex-offender

They say they work harder to prove they are reliable, have a good eye for detail, are grateful for the second chance, and give 100%.

Benefits of employing ex- offenders:

86% fitted well with  work mates

82%  worked well

81%  were very reliable.

Research by the cipd (chartered institute of personnel and development) concluded that 66% of hr managers had a positive experience of employing an ex-offender,  less than 10% had a negative experience.

So why is it so hard for us to be given a second chance?

By Martyn, an ex-prisoner.


Read From Mailbags to Embroidery – Fine Cell Work by Pam Ambrose

More information on


A brief history of Positive Justice Gloucestershire.

‘If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil runs through the heart of every human being and who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart.’  Solzhenitsyn

Positive Justice Gloucestershire was started largely to try to spread Solzhenitsyn’s views, rather than those one reads so frequently in the popular press. Marina Cantacuzino of the Forgiveness Project quoted ’  Solzhenitsyn at a conference of Quakers in Criminal justice’, entitled ‘From faith to action’ in February 2008. Another speaker at that conference was Juliet Lyon of the Prison Reform Trust, who reported a meeting with Jack Straw, minister for justice. He had said to her that week, ‘that would be an excellent idea, but how would it run in the Daily Mail?’

Apparently the government thinks the views of the Daily Mail represent public opinion. Juliet Lyon, however, said that surveys carried out by the Prison Reform Trust show that people are far less vindictive than the Daily Mail.  Perhaps more in line with Solzhenitsyn’s view of human beings.

I felt that there was a need for a local group to challenge the views of the Daily Mail, and other media; to put across positive ideas of human beings, and support and report what can be and is being done, so that the good within individuals may be helped to flourish.

Gloucestershire Area Quaker Meeting supported me and funded a meeting on June 11th to which were invited representatives from various bodies concerned with the justice system, from Christian denominations and other faith traditions, county councillors, magistrates, and others.

A working group was formed which has met several times to organise the meeting on November 11th, out of which we hope a group will grow which will promote more positive images of offenders, alternatives to prison, and lead to informed debate on issues of justice.

Mary Brown

The Challenge of Freedom 20th November 2009

Just being there - Circles UK conference

Five Minutes of Heaven

Marcus Moore

Public Meeting 21st November 2008

A Brief History of PJG

A personal reflection on the Gloucestershire Criminal justice Board annual seminar

Positive Justice Gloucestershire, Koestler Trust

Coming Events