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Beyond Borders

Eleanor De, about 2 months ago

The criminal justice system is riddled with problems and complexities, many of which are high contentious and require nuanced analysis. However, the need to tackle reoffending rates is one of the unifying concerns of our time. Re-offending costs our economy. People out of work costs our economy. And limited labour market costs our economy- and potentially your business.

Whilst the reasons people commit crime are varied and complex, the routes out of crime are rather more measurable and quantifiable. As we have explored throughout our blog, there are many schemes through which prisoners are able to develop a range of industry skills, from coding to carpentry to coffee roasting, all of which increase their employability upon release. Unfortunately, in the UK this is rarely accounted for in hiring processes and ex-offenders remain, for the most part, an untapped pool of skill and talent.

Through showcasing the fantastic work of various organisations and businesses on our blog, we aim to demonstrate evidence of best practice. We hope that this will inspire other businesses to reconsider the place of ex-offenders within their own companies, providing an economic argument with human stories.

Comparative penal policy is a growing body of research which analyses the differences and similarities between different jurisdictions. This series will be drawing on international efforts to treat ex-offenders with greater humanity and reduce reoffending rates. We recognise that best practice is not limited to our own borders and other countries have much to offer by way of inspiration.

We have selected examples which are particularly adaptable to the UK. The difficulty with comparative penal policy is that many jurisdictions have societies which function in very different ways to our own. It is not easy, therefore to simply transplant best practice. Scandinavia, for instance, is often heralded as possessing the most progressive and effective criminal justice system. However, it is important to appreciate that this kind of exceptionalism can blind us to the problems of such a system. Moreover, a social democracy like Norway, which has been ethnically homogenous for centuries, functions in a very different way to somewhere like the UK or USA. It is with this in mind that we have chosen our case studies. The examples from Thailand and Turkey also demonstrate that appreciating the value and potential of people with convictions and implementing practical ways to addressing reoffending is not the sole preserve of Western states.

There are many ways in which prisoners can be supported in prison and through the gate; from fairer legislation which prevents discrimination in New York and Turkey, to in-prison training schemes to develop employable skills such craftwork in Australia, to post-release employment initiatives like the social entrepreneurship scheme in Sweden. Just like the domestic examples, these case studies can be used to help UK businesses understand the importance of supporting people with convictions and how giving them opportunities to make changes has huge benefits employers and society at large, whilst also providing the means for a happier and more fulfilling life for individuals.