Why would I start a blog, a twitter account and put myself out there so publically to say I am an ex offender?
I was released from prison over four years ago and I have always been quiet about my past to new people I meet. Its never been a secret I just chose not to discuss it openly, now here I am, posting blogs and tweets on a daily basis with my real name and photo!
It would have been so easy for me to move away from my past as I have held down a job since the very day of my release, I have a nice home, a car and I am settled. Being easy for me to move away from past on a day to day basis however doesn’t mean it is right. I have never been one to take the easy way out.
Why should I settle in a job role that I am not satisfied in? Just because it was a great opportunity given to me when I needed it. It ensured I wasn’t released from prison unemployed so for that I am and will always be greatful but there is a big wide world out there and I have big dreams.
Starting my twitter account was for a sole reason of contacting a company who offered me a job then took that away from me with no explanation after my conviction was disclosed. Four weeks on, I have over 400 followers and a shed load of people rooting for me.
Then came my blog, this is to highlight and address huge issues that stop ex offenders living and working in the community after their release from prison, when their punishment should be over! Four years since my release and I don’t feel like my punishment is over. How can I believe in a justice system that is supposed to rehabilitate ex offenders when companies are allowed to offer jobs and then retract their offers based on irrelevant and years old convictions? Yes, we all know this is not right but the fact is, it is happening and only a minority are willing to challenge it and stand up for not only what is right but what is in essence greatly beneficially for society. I mean, who wouldn’t want to actively participate in reducing crime rates and men and women behind bars by helping them get a job?
Having been in prison and experiencing numerous problems within the system I obviously have a very strong view on the state of the prison system and the criminal justice system as a whole, I may address and share my stories on that at a later date, the main focus for me at present is to raise awareness on the importance of employing people with a conviction. Everyone already knows that the prison system is falling apart and failing people massively with detrimental lifetime effects, I don’t need to blog about it. Yet.
Who better to shout from the roof tops why employers should give ex offenders a chance and a job than someone who has witnessed her life fall apart, who lost everything and got it all back and more, through gritted teeth, sleepless nights, early starts and a clear, driven focus on building a life after living in a cell.
Unless you have been to prison or you know someone who has, you can never understand it. Why are employers so unwilling to offer jobs to ex cons? I have always been employed, even in prison I was still in full time paid work. There is a preconceived idea that criminals are not educated, that they lack ambition and can not be trusted. Do these people actually know any criminals like that, because I, for sure, do not. The majority of offenders and ex offenders I have known are fast paced, knowledgeable, self educated, polite, and very much driven to put an end to their criminal past. How can they do that in a community that wont employ them? In prison I made a handful of friends who now I would trust with my life, these 4 women are all employed, they are all ambitious, loyal and willing to learn. They are all ex offenders.
With over 80,000 people in prison it is very troubling for me to live the easy life and not address this. Infact, it is out of the question. I can not do it. 80,000 people who are at some point, going to be released from prison who need a job. It may be unlikely that all of these prisoners actually want to come out and work but for the ones who do, why are they not able to? I am a very thick skinned woman, nothing really gets to me and I try and find the best in every bad situation I have ever faced but even I feel like giving up sometimes, I wont, but I do feel like it. Its 10pm now, I have been awake since 5am, worked my full day and now I am typing this because I will work tirelessly in the hope that with my words, someone else’s journey from prison to public will be made a little less difficult.
Its scary to think, of all the attention my blogs have been getting from various charities and people within the criminal justice system not one local business or employer has said anything about it. They wont employ people with a conviction but they wont say why! If I wont do something and my reasons are strong, you would hear them.
Their ignorance and uniformed views of ex offenders needs to change. I received a tweet saying “#banthebox wont even work we need to #bantheattitude”. Lets ban the attitude. Why aren’t employers brave enough to speak up and highlight their concerns, I am here, blogging open and honestly about a matter that is so close to my heart and I really fail to see how an employer having a conversation with me in regards to employing people with conviction will leave, with the same view they had before.
There will always be crime committed for reasons of greed and status but what about the people who committed a crime to feed their kids, to put a roof over their head, to eat? Yes, it was wrong but if you, as an employer took away a job offer or didn’t even give them the time of day because they have previous convictions, what do you expect them to do? Sleep on the street, eat from bins and beg for money?
Employers should have a duty of care for their communities, this duty should include doing all they can to minimise crime and what better way to do that, than employ the criminal. Give them a reason and a purpose, listen to their life story and I bet when you finally do that, you will see the potential they have to be a great success.