Changes to the Disclosing Offences to Employers

 

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Ex-prisoners that want to turn their lives around through work and rehabilitation will be supported in this in a move from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). There new ruling will change what the ex-prisoners have to disclose to prospective employers.

Some prison sentences of over four years will no longer have to be disclosed to employers after a specified period of time has passed. This change will not apply where there are issues of safeguarding; and will not apply to offences attract the most serious sentences, including life, or for serious sexual, violent and terrorism offences.

 

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We all know that regular work is a major factor in breaking the cycle of crime, and that  but many ex-prisoners find it impossible to get a job, without the assistance of some amazing organisations (https://cleansheet.org.uk and https://tempusnovo.org/).

In addition to the rule change for longer sentences over four years, the period of time for which shorter sentences and community sentences have to be revealed to employers will also be decreased. As of yet MoJ and others have not finalised these proposals with the stated time-lengths, but whatever they are, they will be most welcome

The government say that they are doing this to aid rehabilitation and the acknowledgement that the longer an ex-prisoner is out of work the more chance it is that they will slip back into the cycle of offending to help finance their lifestyles.

David Gauke, said:

The responsibility, structure and support provided by regular work is an essential component of effective rehabilitation, something which benefits us all by reducing re-offending and cutting the cost of crime.

That’s why we are introducing reforms to break barriers faced by ex-offenders who genuinely want to turn their lives around through employment.

While these reforms will help remove the stigma of convictions, we will never compromise public safety. That is why separate and more stringent rules will continue to apply for sensitive roles, including those which involve working with children and vulnerable adults.

Currently, where a sentence longer than four years is passed, crimes committed decades earlier, including those committed as a child, must be disclosed to employers for the remainder of the offender’s life. If someone was convicted of a minor offence in their childhood some tens of years ago, and received (a then lengthy) sentence, they would still need to disclose this today!

 

The NEW Incentives Regime

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“This new framework gives Governors the tools to set clear behavioural standards for prisoners – enhancing their ability to maintain stability while steering offenders away from a life of crime.” These words by David Gauke, Secretary of State for Justice announced the reformed Incentives regime to be used in our prison estate.

For me, the removal of ‘Entry Level’ is the most sensible of moves. I witnessed how this alienated prisoners from the regime in their jail. It caused a divide between individual prisoners and the staff that manned their landings and the prison management. This is not a good position to be starting your prison career. If a prisoner enters the system on a even keel with their peers it helps build that foundation of belonging to the community. This move should have an immediate impact on the prison community and its members.

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The scheme allows staff to affirm good behaviour and challenge when that behaviour does not meet the desired level. This, as many members of the public will think, is what ought to have been happening without this scheme. Prison officers that walk the landings and have the day to day dealings with the prisoners ought to be guiding them this way. With the new keyworking scheme that has been implemented a while now it should be that relationships between prison officers and prisoners get stronger as they work together. This is the path to real rehabilitation.

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The new scheme allows for Governors to facilitate extra time out of the cell for those prisoners that follow and engage with the prison regime. This has been tried previously, and failed when a former Secretary of State decided that we had too many prison officers and made it easy for the staff with years of experience to leave. For Governors to be able to act on this aspect of the scheme prisons are going to have to ensure that their landings are manned with enough staff to patrol the landings and supervise those prisoners who are still on association.

While I welcome this reworking of the scheme, I am also concerned that the groundwork has not be done to ensure that this will be a successful change. We have seen changes made to prison policy time and again, and more recent changes have been poorly administered which causes more confusion in the community; and that only goes to detract from the good work that goes on in our prison estate.

it is my hope that this scheme will be administered correctly at local and national levels. We can only watch and see what comes of this.

The Prisoner Policy Network.

There are some organisations that simply demand respect, and so when I was invited to attend an event to launch the second question for the Prisoner Policy Network (PPN) run by the Prison Reform Trust (PRT) I had to say yes. And, I am so pleased that I did even though it meant taking a taxi back to prison (well they were going to let me out again on the same day).

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@Areformedman standing outside the visits centre.

It was on the morning of the PRT event that my friend, (colleague and mentor), said to me that we were getting a taxi back to prison. I have to say we did have a laugh about that, and talked about it as we travelled to HMP Coldingley.

This was a surreal moment as we signed ourselves in through the ‘official visitors’ entrance and showed our photograph ID. Then once enough of those attending had been signed in we were escorted from the gatehouse through to the chapel complex where this event was going to take place. I am not sure of the total numbers, but the mix of attendees from HMP Coldingley, the Ministry of Justice, mentoring and support organisations as well as other interested partners of PRT proved to be beneficial to the conversation and the day as a whole.

As a Life Sentenced Prisoner it was good to hear Jo Sims, the prison governor at Coldingley give an honest and open welcome address. It is refreshing when a governor starts by saying that her prison doesn’t always get everything right. They did get it all right for this event. Her address was followed by the PRT Director, Peter Dawson who gave us a brief introduction to the work of his organisation and what the PPN set out to achieve.

Dr. Lucy Wainwright gave an informative address on her report What incentives work in prison? The report can be read by clicking on the title. It was encouraging to hear Dr. Wainwright say that prisoners are unique, and their responses to this question fitted that. There was no one homogeneous response. The report came with four broad findings which go to say that when you get the basics right with meaningful incentives and positive models for the prison to follow then those in custody will go on to learn to trust the system.

The final part of this event was to discuss the second question: What do you need to make best use of your time in custody? Rest assured, I will report back on this in due course; this will be after our responses from the day, and those of serving prisons and others have been collated and the report published.