Disclosing criminal convictions: negative thoughts to positive beliefs

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Robert* is 28 years old. He was released from prison in September 2013 having served 18 months of a three-year sentence for domestic burglary. It was his second conviction for burglary and his tenth conviction overall.
Robert is estranged from his mother, having left home at the age of 14. He suffered mental health issues as a result of his mother being involved in an abusive relationship. He missed alcohol and drugs and was previously diagnosed by his doctor as suffering from depression. Robert has been clean for 15 months.

Robert is due to become a father and, although he is no longer with the mother, he is determined to give his child a better life than he experienced growing up. This is the main driving force behind his desire to work. Robert has cut off all ties with his old circle of friends and is now living in shared accommodation, where he has developed some essential budgeting skills.

While in prison, he gained qualifications in Maths and English and also undertook a course in hospitality management, receiving training to become a sous chef. Robert also completed a drug-awareness course and became a Listener (peer mentor).

Despite the skills that he gained in prison, Robert has struggled to secure employment due to his criminal record. He is currently in receipt of benefits and is required to sign on at the job centre every fortnight. Robert has previously secured a couple of interviews for kitchen jobs but, not being used to discussing his achievements, has struggled at interview.  He also finds it difficult to explain gaps in his CV and to discuss his convictions when asked.

Although Robert was highly motivated on his release from prison he is now feeling disheartened; he feels that no one is prepared to give him a chance due to his unspent convictions.

Robert’s story will strike a chord with those involved in the criminal justice system that come into contact with such individuals on a daily basis, as do we at Nacro via our Resettlement Advice Service helpline.

Most people who contact our helpline initially find it challenging to discuss the issues behind their offending as they are often linked to matters that are deeply personal. Having to go over ‘old ground’ can sometimes evoke painful memories and most people want to put the past behind them. A source of distress for individuals with convictions are the instances where, when seeking employment or education, there is no avoiding that dreaded discussion about their past. The only way to deal with such a situation is to be prepared. There is no better preparation than to have a written disclosure statement. If done properly a disclosure statement allows you to:

  1. Tell the employer something positive such as why you are applying for the role, what you can offer, previous experience, skills etc.
  2. Explain the offence(s) in your own words such as what the offences were and why they happened. You can highlight any mitigating factors e.g. addiction issues, loss of a loved one, in with the wrong crowd.
  3. Reassure the employer that you are not a risk by pre-empting their concerns and addressing them before they are raised. You can talk about what you have been doing since  the offence, how you have addressed your issues, responsibilities you have taken on since and what you have learnt from the offence.

Having a disclosure statement to hand when attending a job interview can instil a person with confidence because it removes the awkwardness of having to discuss something that is quite personal with someone that you may be meeting for the first time. There may still be questions, but by having a disclosure statement the important information has already been communicated to the interviewer.

Having a written disclosure statement can also remove the feeling of being put on the spot; being under pressure can sometimes lead to vital information not being shared or being miscommunicated.

If you require specific advice and guidance on how to disclose a criminal record to an employer, read our dedicated webpage on Disclosing criminal records to employers. Alternatively you can contact our Resettlement Advice Service or follow us on Twitter @Nacro_

*Name has been changed