It’s only a second chance, if you actually stand a chance…

Our Charity Insurance team explain how the charity sector can support ex-offenders.

The poet Alexander Pope once said that “To err is human”. Or to put it more simply: we all make mistakes. It is part of the human condition to make mistakes from time to time, and is one of the many ways in which we learn and develop. Some of us however make graver mistakes than others, and the cold reality is that it’s not difficult to end up on the wrong side of the law if circumstances mount up against us.
 
However it could be fair to say that western societies often don’t do as much as we could to help and support those ex-offenders who are trying to turn their lives around. On average around 42% of juvenile offenders in the UK will re-offend within 12 months of their release, which could be interpreted as meaning that almost half of convicted juveniles are actually career criminals in the making. Or could it mean that society actually puts up barrier after barrier to prevent reintegration into society?
 
We all know that finding employment can be a challenge for ex-offenders. It can be difficult for those looking to make a fresh start to find accommodation, many ex-offenders don’t have family that they can return to, and landlords are reluctant to take them on as tenants. But the problems don’t just stop there. Financial support is negligent. And the local community can be less than welcoming. In very many ways reintegration is a constant uphill battle, so is it any wonder that many ex-offenders succumb to the temptation of drugs, or the ease of slipping back into the criminal lifestyle they know?
 
Media reports all say that the UK criminal justice system is at financial breaking point, our prisons are overcrowded and living conditions can be poor. But investing time into helping ex-offenders would help relieve the strain, reduce crime rates, help improve local communities and most importantly help people become a valuable member of our society.
 
How can charities help?
 
There are some charities whose mandate is to give ex-offenders a second chance. But many other charities can do their part by taking them on as employees or even as unpaid volunteers. A charity can give an ex-offender work experience and be the first link in the employment chain, and a positive reference provided by that charity could provide the opportunity for their next employer to take that leap of faith. More than that, if you invest time with ex-offenders and help them to believe in themselves, you may find them to be more hard working and determined than any other member of staff. After all they have more to prove and you’re giving them the incentive to do it…
 
But what about the risk? Putting faith in anyone can present a risk, regardless of whether they’re an ex-offender or not. By carrying out risk assessments and putting a robust safeguarding policy in place you can ensure your charity is risk adverse and may prevent certain problems from occurring. If you need any advice about making sure you have an adequate safeguarding policy, or on any aspect of charity or not-for-profit insurance, please get in touch with one of Scrutton Bland’s charity executives who have extensive experience and knowledge of this sector.
 
This article started with a snippet of an Alexander Pope quote, so it seems fitting to finish with more of that same quotation: “To err is human, to forgive divine. All people commit sins and make mistakes. God forgives them, and people are acting in a godlike (divine) way when they forgive.”
 
We all need to have a purpose in life, to feel as though we belong and to be given the opportunity to flourish. So go on, be divine, and give an ex-offender a chance.
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