Recruit with Conviction

Anyone who knows me and Virgin will tell you we have always been willing to stand on the edge of convention, to come up with new ways of looking at things and new ways of doing things. We have supported youth culture and, as a business, have stayed young in heart and spirit.

We have believed in giving people opportunities to be creative, innovative, independent and open-minded. That means also standing against prejudice. One of the areas of prejudice that we are in danger of increasing is our attitude to people with convictions.

The reality of criminal justice is that around 30% of men under 30 have some sort of criminal conviction. And yet criminals get lumped into one big category, often regardless of the type of crime. We end up condemning all people with convictions, often forgetting that, based on that 30% statistic, these criminals are also almost certainly part of our own circle of friends, family, acquaintances and neighbours. They are people with faces, identities, life stories.

Based on the horrific and extreme cases we hear on television, we end up being fearful of all people with convictions, regardless of their offence.

We often forget that many people with convictions have often got there on a pathway that comes from child social care, abuse by others, drugs and mental health issues.

We dont condone crime in any way but we do believe in second chances.

And the best way to give people a second chance, to enable them to rehabilitate and become full and positive members of society is to provide employment opportunities, or at least not exclude people from jobs solely based on convictions. A job confers self-respect and a stake in society which provides the incentive to change.

In these current difficult economic times, every job attracts so many applicants. Cutting out all those with convictions, regardless of other talents, seems on the surface to be obvious and sensible. But it is storing up a problem for all of us if we take this view. It is going to exclude a whole category of people and condemn them to poverty and an almost impossible route to sustainable rehabilitation.

I congratulate the work of No-Offence to expand the discussion on how we can use employment, both inside prison and outside, as a vital pathway for reducing reoffending and therefore reducing the number of people who end up being victims of crime.

It is a win-win for everybody and that is something I have always believed in.

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