Why should companies employ ex-offenders?

Wed 11 Dec 2013

By Dr Julie Mills, MK College Principal

At Milton Keynes College we aim to improve the lives and prospects of all our students, and for the whole of our communities, not just part of them. This includes those from Milton Keynes and the surrounding area and those taught at thirty prisons across the West and East Midlands and Central Southern England.  When they complete their sentences, our students from offender learning need work every bit as much as the students learning on our three campuses, community locations or the workplace.

While crime reduction policies of the past have largely focused on sentencing, the government is now carrying out a “rehabilitation revolution.”  Working Links (http://www.workinglinks.co.uk/ ) is a public, private and voluntary contractor charged with delivering the government’s Work Programme scheme.  It has conducted a study looking into reoffending and employment and found only 22% of ex-offenders who go into full-time employment reoffend, compared to 70% of those who don't land a job.  Clearly, employment helps people turn away from crime, so why as a society don’t we encourage more employers to consider taking on ex-offenders because economically it makes sense.  The cost to the taxpayer of reoffending is estimated to be £9.5 to £13 billion per year.

A job provides an ex-offender with structured time, an income, the opportunity for a new outlook, new relationships, a legitimate identity, ambitions and goals, and financial security.  It also gives those who have moved on from a life of crime the chance to give something back to their community and lead a normal life.  These have all been factors that are proven to reduce reoffending.

Some of the UK's big names are leading the way when it comes to championing the employment of ex-offenders.  Virgin, Marks & Spencer and Timpson have all publicised the fact that their recruitment process is open to those with criminal records.

There is also evidence to suggest that former offenders possess an extra level of motivation and commitment to their job.  They are found to be loyal and determined to succeed.  Companies, which have taken the plunge and are employing ex-offenders tell us they take fewer days off sick and stay in a job for longer saving the companies they work for significant costs. 

It is, of course, difficult to generalise about a group that is far from homogeneous, but opening up the recruitment process to those with a criminal record provides a much wider talent pool for business and industry.  Home Office statistics show that 20% of the UK working population have a criminal record which makes it a very deep pool indeed.  Diversity isn’t just about colour, sex and sexuality.  If employers want to snap up the best talent they need to look far and wide and that includes among the ex-offender population.

So, would you give a job to an ex-offender?

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