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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 13:13 GMT
Should employers give ex-cons a second chance?
Employers are being asked to give a fresh start to ex-offenders in a bid to cut crime and unemployment.

A report issued by the Trades Union Congress, TUC, says it is unfair to further punish people who have served time in prison by denying them work.

Legislation due to come into force next autumn will allow bosses the right to ask jobseekers for evidence of criminal convictions.

But the TUC is concerned that ex-offenders may try to conceal their criminal records unless they know they will be treated fairly.

Should employers offer jobs to ex-offenders? Would you either recruit or work with an ex-con?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Surely it is unfair to stop someone who has committed a minor offence from working again

Kevin Kinver, UK
Employers should take into consideration the crime or crimes committed. Surely it is unfair to stop someone who has committed a minor offence from working again. By taking the ability to work away from an ex-con you are effectively increasing the length of their jail sentence. This could be detrimental and may force minor offenders into more serious crime in order to survive.
Kevin Kinver, UK

It's up to each individual employer. They should be able to make their own mind up based on full knowledge of the crimes committed. In the end, it's the ex-con himself who wins or loses a job.
Christine, UK

Unlike the other categories of people who might find themselves on the wrong end of employers' bigotry, criminals only fall into their category by virtue of their own actions. Being a criminal, in other words, is a self-inflicted stigma. People should consider this before they offend, and not expect an easy ride back to normal life just because they happen to have done their porridge. Why should an ex-con be given preference over other job applicants who are law-abiding citizens just for the sake of some politically correct ideal? There are too many apologists for bad behaviour in modern Britain. Maybe this is why there is an increase in crime: too few people are prepared to tell these people they are wrong.
David Hazel, UK

I have a friend who I discovered had spent time in prison in his early 20's for car theft. He married and has brought up 3 well-behaved, hard working children. People can change and those who want to ought to be given a second chance.
Gill, UK

Jimmy Boyle was one of Scotland's hardest gangsters and one of the prison system's most resistant inmates. He is now a successful author, sculptor and educator, and he does more good societal work than most people I know. Try telling him prisoners can't become worthy contributors to society.
Steve B, Scotland

There are plenty of sticks in the criminal justice system, but I haven't seen a new carrot in years.

Peter Regan, UK
The notion that prisons train people to lead a better life is nonsense. They exist to punish by incarceration. The UK is an extremely punitive society, and it doesn't surprise me that so many contributors to this want to go on punishing people after they have served their sentence. It would help if more people visited prisons to see what they are really like. There are plenty of sticks in the criminal justice system, but I haven't seen a new carrot in years
Peter Regan, UK

Of course employers should give ex-convicts a second chance. The term "ex-convict" is so very vague and I think that is half the problem. Today's society often boasts of its open-minded, "anything goes" attitude when in actual fact the majority are ready to stereotype, or at least jump to an incorrect conclusion. If ex-convicts were not given a second chance then we might as well bring back the death penalty. I think that the death penalty is a backward sentence, and it still exists. How can taking a person's life be punishment for the individual when it is the convict's family and friends who suffer the loss? Ex-convicts have paid the price for their crime. Whilst there is no guarantee that the ex-con has changed, by law, the persons in question are now free- and open to opportunities.
Lucy Kew, 17, Wales

Those with custodial sentences, have more than likely had 2 or 3 chances already, before finally being locked up. No more chances! They must now prove to society that they are ready to be integrated with it.
Chris, UK

Why should the public pay for the con's crimes twice

Susan, USA
Depends on the ex-con and depends on the job. However, you'd be very stupid to give an ex-con a job and not supervise them very closely until they'd proved themselves trustworthy again. Work is a better alternative than the dole, and why should the public pay for the con's crimes twice - once by paying to keep them in jail, then to keep them once they leave jail.
Susan, USA

I came back from work tonight to find that the rear doors were kicked open by some thief. Fortunately, this place, like most in Hungary, is alarmed. Given that the perpetrator will probably be jailed and released in three months time how do you think I would feel? As it is, I have to stay up most of tonight in case of a repeat performance, and try to calm my girlfriend down in the process. Lets get real here - there are plenty of honest people out there still worthy of employment. Why take the risk with a lowlife?
Stephen, Hungary

It's a cliché but when someone comes out from prison they have "paid their debt to society". If they want to work, let them work. Criminal records should pay no part in job interviews. Otherwise even a sentence of one day will become a life sentence.
Keith, Ireland

It depends on the crime the ex-con has committed. A friend of mine has just been released from prison after six months. He was convicted of assault, which was actually self-defence. Does my friend not deserve to have a good job? I think he does.
Yvonne Carmichael, UK

I wouldn't put my fellow employees at risk

Wendy, UK
I wouldn't give a sex offender a second chance - a short spell in clink is hardly going to cure them and I wouldn't put my fellow employees at risk. I would probably have the same attitude to violent offenders. Though I do think people should have a chance to explain why they did what they did - after all circumstances and people do change.
Wendy, UK

There's not a lot of point in sending people to prison and expecting them not to re-offend on release unless they are offered jobs. They have to support themselves somehow, so the choice is simple: employ them, give them state benefits or let them steal!
Steve, UK

Why should they be given yet more help?

Bernard, UK
Prison inmates already have free access to more re-training opportunities while inside than most of the rest of us. Anyone leaving prison without skills is clearly not that bothered, so why should they be given yet more help? No discrimination, either positive or negative, should be given to ex-cons, except where it is clearly relevant, i.e. don't give someone who has committed fraud a position where they can easily do so again.
Bernard, UK

Nothing is ever black and white. It depends on the type of crime. A one-time thief is not the same as a multiple murderer. If the courts see fit to release somebody into society, then surely that person has a right to work? If anything should change, it should be our justice system.
Sandra, UK

Would I like to work with an ex-con? Sure, no problem. Would I like to work with someone who holds petty, prejudiced opinions about a group of people that have already paid their due? Not really.
Martin, England, UK

Either they can work, or they can rob you in an alley, serve time in prison and then get on the dole

Thomas, US
If you don't give them a second chance society is going to pay. Either they can work, or they can rob you in an alley, serve time in prison at taxpayers' expense, and then get on the dole since they can't get a job doing anything else.
Thomas, US

It's far better to have an ex-con working rather than signing-on. They get self-respect and self-esteem; we get less of a demand on the social security budget. Hopefully, nobody should lose.
Martin, UK

Until each and every one of us reaches perfection, we should allow second chances to those who fall below our own superior standards. Otherwise, how will society improve?
Paul Nagle, England

Community labour such as rubbish collecting or tree-planting would be a better option

Michael Entill, UK
It would have to depend on whether the crime was a one-off or a repeat offence. Repeat offending is habitual behaviour and the criminal is highly unlikely to mend their ways. A system of 'community wages' in exchange for community labour such as rubbish collecting or tree-planting would be a better option, giving the ex-con a job and a work ethic and giving taxpayers some return on the benefit payments they fund.
Michael Entill, UK

I would give these people another chance conditionally. I think we should be tolerant of those who make up their mind to turn over a new leaf. So if I was a boss, I would hold an interview to evaluate their determination and attitude to help me make the right decision.
Zi Hau Huang, Taipei Taiwan

Should possession of controlled substances block you from a creative design job?

Depends on what you were done for. Convictions exposing deep-seated dishonesty could debar you from a lot of jobs, but should possession of controlled substances block you from a creative design job?

Well ,Geoff, UK, they aren't criminals once they have served their time. If you think they should spend longer in jail, then address that issue, but once set free, they should have all the rights of the rest of society. I'm afraid comments like these are the sad result of a society that has lost faith in its judicial system. However, let us not confuse those like Dave, Manchester, who believe that all criminals should be cast in the lake of fire for eternity and those who are worried that although punishment may have been completed, that rehabilitation may not.
Matt, Amsterdam, Netherlands (ex. UK)

You should get one chance in life and if you choose to abuse it, then tough

Dave, Manchester, UK
No, you should get one chance in life and if you choose to abuse it, then tough. We have probably all broken the law at some small way, but these people have deserved a custodial sentence for what they have done. This will have involved ruining someone's life or lifestyle in some way. They should be made to do menial tasks to repay the taxpayer that has had to foot the bill to keep these criminals away from decent people trying to lead a decent life while public services go down due to lack of money! Maybe then it will get the message across that crime does not pay - but I for one will not hold my breath waiting in this holiday camp for terrorists, rapists and thieves that we call Great Britain.
Dave, Manchester, UK

Dave in Manchester is spot on. Why should ex-cons take jobs away from law-abiding people?
Geoff, UK

Generally speaking all people respond to trust and everyone deserves a second chance

Anthony, England
There is probably not one of us who has not been economic with the truth over tax returns, paid workmen cash in hand and broken many speed limits, - particularly when we were young. Ex-convicts are those who got caught. Generally speaking all people respond to trust and everyone deserves a second chance. But a sixth or seventh chance, - that might be taking things too far!
Anthony, England

What rot. I am an employer and in good times I have up to sixty employees. And yes I have employed ex-cons. I can truly say that ex-cons have never stolen any more than the budding future cons! Simply put, never encourage theft by being lax, and more often than not, most thefts are committed by people you least expect. The biggest worry lies with sex offenders. These should be treated with the greatest of care. My suggestion would be that all jobs that involve child minding and other carer positions should be rubber stamped by an agency (statutory body) who would naturally have the right to view past records and not disclose, just say yes or no to the employer's recommendation. Who pays? User pays...
Nick Tokovic, Australia

By helping these people back into society we are defending ourselves against further crime and saving the expense of putting them back in prison

Charles Moore, Scotland
The advantages to all of us are obvious: By helping these people back into society we are not only defending ourselves against further crime but also saving the expense of putting them back in prison. Perhaps it would be a good idea to have some sort of insurance scheme so that employers wouldn't feel that they were sticking their necks out. Also you'd need to have a public education campaign to counter the inevitable rise of urban myths about people having to pose as ex-cons in order to get a job.
Charles Moore, Scotland

Any so-called positive discrimination in favour of ex-cons would herald a deafening howl of outrage from most our most righteous newspapers. This is in itself one reason to leave this kind of decision entirely with employers.
Andrew Cover, UK

If they don't then ex-cons will give up on trying to earn a decent living and go back to their old trade

Mike Rogers, Wales
Of course companies should give ex-offenders a fresh start. Surely if they have served the penalty for their crime then they should be given a second chance - hasn't this county got a Rehabilitation Act? If they don't then the ex-cons will just give up on trying to go straight to earn a decent living and decide to go back to their old trade. Why should people be punished for their whole lives for a crime committed years ago that they have completed the sentence required?
Mike Rogers, Wales

My decision would depend largely on the nature of the crime that had resulted in their conviction. I'd also bear in mind that someone who has committed a premeditated offence, then been caught and convicted for it, is probably not as clever as they think they are - so would I want to employ them anyway? Probably not.
Chris B, England

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