New research finds employers generally positive about their experiences of  hiring ex-offenders


On the whole employers are positive about their experience of recruiting ex-offenders according to research released  this week  by You Gov for CfBT Education Trust. More than half of employers believe that they have an important role to play in helping ex-offenders back into the workplace  and  almost  two thirds, 58%,  rated  ex-offender  employees as either good or excellent with just 17%  giving a poor rating.

The research was carried out this September among a representative group of 1051 employers with data weighted by sector , industry and size, polling senior managers.

The survey, Employers’ perception of best practice in prison education, also found that one-third (31%) of employers questioned had employed an ex-offender.  The Voluntary sector was the most likely to employ ex-offenders. The most common reasons for employing ex-offenders were their skills and attributes, as well as a sense of social responsibility. Employing an ex-offender was seen as contributing to corporate social responsibility, especially by those organisations most likely to employ an ex-offender (larger voluntary and public sector organisations), as well as half of all private businesses.

The skills that were seen to be most important in potential applicants were a positive attitude, cited by 44% of respondents, and technical skills (43%). One-third (33%) of employers agreed that prison education makes ex-offenders more employable.

The report also compared the views of employers that had no experience of working with offenders with those that had. Clear differences between the two groups were identified. Employers that had not employed an ex-offender were:

less likely to ask for more information about a criminal record;

more likely to automatically reject a candidate with a criminal record;

more likely to be concerned about external perceptions and the reputation of the organisation; and

more likely to say that nothing would make them feel more confident to employ an ex-offender.

The biggest barrier for ex-offenders finding a job were their criminal record (66%) with employers considering the type of crime committed as the major consideration (73%) when assessing   a job application from an ex-offender. This was followed by  the lack of work experience and poor reputation.

Education in prison received mixed reviews. Employers who have employed ex-offenders in the past are split in their perception of prison education-31% are confident in its ability to prepare ex-offenders and likewise 31% are not confident in it.

Improving hard and soft skills is the area which employers think would most help them get a job once they leave prison. Nearly half, 49%, mentioned soft skills such as communication appearance attitude and time keeping.

Richard Goss, head of learning and skills at CfBT Education Trust, said: “Prison education is a vital part of the journey to make people work ready and to develop both hard and soft employability skills. We need to ensure that all prisoners have access to education, but at the same time that the qualifications achieved while in prison meet the needs of employers.

“To give employers more confidence to give offenders a second chance, perhaps through a work-trial, we need to raise awareness of what prison education is, what it offers to offenders and, ultimately, what skills and attributes ex-offenders potentially bring to the workforce

Eoin McLennan Murray, President of the Prisoner Governors Association, who has broad experience of running different types of prison, at  this weeks report  launch said that the research confirmed his views based on his experience of working with offenders and ex-offenders and seeking to create bridges between employers and ex-offenders. Ex-Offenders have the odds stacked against them because of hostile public attitudes and prejudice  toward  offenders.It is very difficult for politicians to have a rational and informed  debate about the secure establishment and to  tell the truth. Current economic conditions and the state of the job market make it even more difficult for ex-offenders to find a job. Lack of employment is a major factor in re-offending.

McLennan Murray said that we need different approaches to assisting ex-offenders to find secure employment. Very few SMEs, which make up most of the economy, take on ex-offenders,  so we must look at options for financial incentives for employers to take on ex-offenders, possibly even applying  positive discrimination, and the public sector could do more.(the Prison Service  has a poor record  in this respect) .Companies should gain some form of recognition for being socially responsible in taking on ex-offenders. And given that employers  value work experience so much, more prisoners should be allowed to work under supervision outside the prison environment and allowed to keep more of their earnings to help establish themselves when they are released back into the community.. But McLennan Murray conceded that it is a difficult political environment within which to lobby for ex-offenders employment opportunities, although it makes sound economic sense to do so.




  1. When someone who declares they have no convictions is recruited, employers make a crucial fallacy in assuming that the person is not a past offender. The problem is that out of all offences that transpire, only a fraction are detected, and out of those detected, only a smaller fraction lead to a criminal record and out of those, a smaller percentage result in a conviction. It doesn’t end there. Only a subset of those with convictions will disclose them to potential employers, when legally mandated to do so. This obviously entails that the number of known ex-offenders in employment is far less than the total number of ex-offenders in employment.

    This leaves employers with an insuperable difficulty. How do they establish that a candidate is, in de facto reality not a past offender given that even if they perform criminal record checks, it would do nothing to disprove past crimes that did not end in convictions?

    A risk employers face by turning down those brave and honest enough who disclose their convictions, is that they may never know as to whether the next applicant they recruit may have failed to disclose a conviction, especially if no background checks are made. Or, they may unknowingly recruit someone who did a medium to major crime that didn’t even lead to a criminal record, much less a conviction! And a clean criminal record wouldn’t establish that someone has not engaged in such crimes!

    If we scour the academic literature, we find such fascinating topics discussed therein.

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