Prison review: 'Don't ask about convictions on job forms'

By Jenny Rees
BBC Wales home affairs correspondent

Published
image copyrightGetty Images

The Welsh Government should lead by example and not require people to declare a criminal record on job applications, according to a review of education in Welsh prisons.

The review by David Hanson MP, suggested the question should instead be asked after interview.

Otherwise those who have a reformed character are "unnecessarily discarded," the review found.

The Welsh Government said it would examine the review in detail.

There are over nine million people in the UK with a criminal record, the report said, but a limited number of employers are prepared to take on ex-offenders.

The recommendation is in line with the so-called "ban the box" campaign, which asks employers to remove the tick box asking applicants to declare a conviction.

The review said screening out ex-offenders in this way undermines efforts to educate prisoners and reduce reoffending.

It found the Welsh Government was not fully utilising its budgets and influence to encourage employers.

It suggested holding a conference of major employers who supply or work with the Welsh Government, to explore skills shortages and employment links with prisons.

Mr Hanson said he was told that public sector employers were more risk averse than the private sector, often hiding behind the need for DBS checks. But his report said there were still jobs that do not require high-level security clearance.

It was one of several recommendations in the report.

'Female offenders let down'

It also raised concerns about female prisoners.

There is no women's prison in Wales, so they are all jailed in England. However the Welsh Government does not have information on the numbers of female offenders, the length of their sentences or which prison they are in.

The training these women are given is based on the local labour market around the prison, rather than the area to which the women will return. This system was letting female offenders down, the report said.

The report also called for urgent discussions between the Welsh Government and Ministry of Justice to ensure all female prisoners in English prisons have access to Welsh language educational materials if they need them.

image copyrightRichard Sutcliffe/Geograph
image captionThe report wants better collaboration between prisons

Additionally, the report said:

  • The review said there must be better sharing of information, calling for regular meetings between the Welsh Government, HM Prison and Probation Service and governors, as well as a central database of those working in education at Welsh prisons.
  • Without access to housing, offenders cannot get a job, and so councils should also be encouraged to work with prisons.
  • A review is needed over the barriers to prisoners getting their CSCS card - which in total costs nearly £60 and enables them to work in construction - while still in prison.
  • Prisoners, particularly those on long sentences, face a "digital divide", and help should be provided to help them develop basic IT skills.

The Minister for Education Kirsty Williams said: "Whilst we accept these recommendations broadly in principle, we will now examine the 22 recommendations in detail and respond accordingly as a number of them will require our early attention."

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