Employing ex-offenders – Iqbal Wahhab

Employing ex-offenders – Iqbal Wahhab

I strongly believe that businesses have
a much bigger role to play in the rehabilitation of ex-offenders than was
previously considered the case, because quite frankly, the government
hasn’t been up to it. £13 billion are spent on keeping prisoners inside prisons,
hardly anything is spent on keeping them safe when they’re out. It costs £37,000 a year to keep someone in prison and the day they’re
released, they’re given £50 and a good luck wish, if they’re lucky. The figures don’t stack up.
Seventy percent of prisoners reoffend within in a year.
It’s because they’re not being prepared for the outside world again, they’re
not being told when they’re inside prison that there are employees who might want to
take you on, there are ways in which you can get a bank account, there ways in which
you can get a home. Governments have never really
believed that, we’ve all heard this term, ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of
crime’, but who’s tough on taking people out of crime?
Nobody’s really having that conversation. Over the last few years, I’ve spent
quite a bit of time working with prisoners and invariably the prisoners, I mean, not all
prisoners, not everyone is in there just because they were broke the day they
committed their crime, but quite often it is the case. They don’t want to go back. The reason they reoffend is that they haven’t
got the money, they can find a way to get a job, or they can’t find a way
to get a home, it’s as simple as that.
If businesses could engage with these groups at
an early stage, while they’re still in prison and prepare them for the world of work, get day
releases from them and say, look, in my environment, you could have a job. With a job, you can go and get a bank
account, you can get a home. You’ll do everything you can not to go back to prison and I’ll get a member of staff I know
will be more committed to working with me than anyone coming off
benefits would be. There’s a huge social impact in working with ex-offenders, which
are beyond the commercial benefits. If somebody is released from prison, they might be selling drugs to my children,
they might be breaking into my car. Or, they could be working for
me, they could be inside my business, having stepped to the right side of the road, or, making society more dangerous,
more prone to further crime, further drugs, problems in the future. So, there is not only the commercial benefit
within our business, but there’s a wider social impact which also would affect our bussiness.
They could be breaking into my restaurant right now, or they could be inside
working in it. There are very good agencies that work
with businesses on taking the right ex-offenders, you won’t get given people who’ve committed huge crimes, murders or sex offences or things like that.
So those people are vetted out so that leaves the vast majority of people who have
committed things like minor theft, or drugs, or things that you can find a
social explanation for, that you don’t need a clinical explanation for,
and that’s usually the difference between who will come through
your doors and who will be sifted out. So, you won’t be given hard to
reach cases, because we want good results. Unfortunately, for the people who have got the high-risk categories, there’s
much less hope for them. But the vast majority aren’t in that high risk area
and they are carefully vetted so that we don’t end up
with the wrong candidates. One of the things that I was really surprised
with when I first started hiring ex-offenders, is they really, really, really don’t want
to go back to prison, which means they work really, really,
really hard for you, because, that way, they don’t have to, because they think
that the harder they work within the company, the more chance there’s going to be for them to stay, which means it’s less likely
for them to reoffend and go back to go back to prison. So, you get an extremely loyal member of
staff when you hire an ex-offender. And we’ve had some brilliant results, some of them have gone on to open
their own businesses. All thanks to somebody giving them a
chance and they’ve gone on to do something more and
then they’re employing other prisoners. So it really does work.

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