The Alchemist — Life on the Outside 14 month on

Has it really been that long since the last post? I have been out in the community now for 14 months and believe it or not I still do not have a job. The truth is as long as you have, or have had a criminal record, most employers do not wish to employ people who have unspent convictions. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 exists to support the rehabilitation into employment of reformed offenders who have stayed on the right side of the law. In essence the act exists to treat ‘a rehabilitated person’ as if he or she had never committed an offence.

As I am now in the community having been released from prison, you would think that to get to this stage I am somewhat rehabilitated and being allowed to get on with my life and work for a living. Now here’s the sticking point within the above act. As long as a conviction is spent, the act then regards an offender as being rehabilitated. This then, within the eyes of the law gives guidance to an employer that they cannot refuse to employ you on the grounds of having had a spent caution or conviction.

The above law however does carry exceptions. I am an exception as my conviction is unspent. My CV has a well documented history of previous employment before my incarceration. There are definite barriers for those of us who have been in prison, regardless of how well educated or talented you may be in a chosen field. It does feel like a poison chalice sometimes and although we wouldn’t like to think that discrimination exists here, it obviously does. In the interviews that I’ve had, the employers seem really keen up until the point that I tell them that I have an unspent conviction. All of a sudden I can hear all the doors closing and ‘next’.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is intended to give general guidance only. For me though, it certainly gives an opinion as to who is considered to be rehabilitated. The Parole Board obviously saw something in me to be set free into the community, but in essence according to the Act for those with an unspent conviction there is no guidance. A company who will remain nameless, was really keen to employ me and gave me hope that things were about to change. At last I thought, my abilities have been recognised! Needless to say it didn’t come off, more barriers internally for the company.

With all this, I have decided to plough my own furrow. It’s still in the early planning stages but it’s happening. With all that has been said, there are people in the community who have been willing to help and the support has been great. Being able to be involved with the Crossroads Trust has been brilliant. The Earth Project continues and currently nature is doing it’s thing with the onions, garlic and winter beans. There have been a few knocks along the way, but remaining positive is key as barriers do exist. You may have the finest people skills, social skills, work skills, but at the end of the day for those of us with an unspent conviction non of that matters. Gaining employment may seem tough and at times impossible, so I guess you just have to believe in yourself and make it possible.