According to management expert James Adonis, there are pros and cons to hiring those with a criminal record. On the one hand, he points out the perils to society if managers universally refused to do so. “The result would be that convicted criminals, or at least those who’ve been to jail, would either remain on perpetual welfare or fall into the recidivism trap,” he wrote in a Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece.
And on the other hand, he sympathises with those who would have concerns hiring an ex-offender. “Being in business is risky – hiring employees even riskier – and so it makes sense, in a way, to minimise that risk by disqualifying those with a crooked history,” he wrote.
One example of a successful rehabilitation programme that Adonis highlighted is run by the RSPCA. Under this scheme, some prisoners are selected to undertake an animal training course to learn how to work with dogs that have behavioural problems. They earn nationally recognised qualifications and vocational skills that will assist them in finding employment once they have left prison. “The success of the programme demonstrates that with the right training and supervision prisoners have the potential to become fine workers,” Adonis wrote.
The rate of recidivism in Australia sits at 60% (it is closer to 70% in New Zealand, while 52% are re-imprisoned), but the Australian Institute of Criminology has said that the figure can be halved if prisoners are given vocational education and are assisted into employment. So the benefits for society appear to be clear.
Richard Branson is a famous champion of ex-offenders; he drew attention several years ago for encouraging Virgin group companies to employ people just released from prison as well as those still in prison. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” he told The Guardian. “A lot of people end up in there because they’ve had a lot of bad luck in their lives.” In addition, Branson argued that giving people that chance could lead to the acquisition of very committed and hard working employees.