I’ve always had a bit of a strange obsession with prisons, airports too actually, basically anywhere that means you're governed by time (probably due to having two youngsters at home where the only “me time” I get is in the bathroom if I’m lucky).
So when the Saracens Foundation asked if Randstad would be able to run some CV writing and Interview skills workshops in prisons I jumped at the chance. Finally, I’d be able to “go inside”, live my Orange Is The New Black/Wentworth dream, albeit just for one day a week throughout June.
About the Saracens foundation
The Saracens Foundation runs an eight-week programme for prisoners due to be released, so ensuring they're ready for the outside world is imperative.
During the eight-week programme, the participants are introduced to rugby and complete classroom sessions focusing on the values and life skills that can be drawn from the sport, e.g. conflict management, positive reaction to pressure, controlling aggression, and teamwork. The Saracens Rugby club's core values are Discipline, Honesty, Work Rate, and Humility, these values are embedded throughout the programme.
Employment after prison...
My team and I discussed the importance of CV writing, especially in this day and age where many jobs are applied for via a job board. We talked about what skills they have gained whilst in prison and how they can be reflected on a CV, resilience, and how to handle rejection. We talked about:
- how to remain calm
- how to dress
- how to put your best self forward.
- And of course, we discussed how to answer that all-important question: why the gap in your CV…?
Having a criminal conviction shouldn’t define who you are. It is a part of your life that you have paid the time for. One of the most eye-opening things for me was that when asked to talk about themselves, the first thing they started with was their conviction and why they were inside. It was almost like they wanted us to know that they weren’t bad people, and by telling us about the crime they had committed and the circumstances that led them there, allowed us to see the person behind the crime, it gave them the opportunity to show remorse, something that you simply can’t get across to an employer without talking to them.
I obviously can’t speak for all prisoners, but the ones on this programme aren’t sitting there counting the days until their release date. They’re worried about what will happen to them when they're released. Will they get another chance at life? Or will that mistake that landed them in prison stay with them forever? What if they get out and can’t find employment?
The reasons for reoffending vary, but commonly offenders find it difficult to convey their skills and abilities (many of which they have learned in prison). They struggle with how to address their personal circumstances appropriately and often don’t know where to look or who to ask about employment.
I know there is no such thing as a victimless crime and all of the participants on this programme did break the law at some point but if gaining meaningful employment upon release means one less reoffender then surely that can only be a good outcome.
Having a criminal conviction shouldn’t define who you are. It is a part of your life that you have paid the time for.
What I've learned
So, my stint in prison is now over for this year, I’ve learned that no two workshops are the same as they evolve depending on the participants, but the outcomes are typically the same, the feedback we've had from the participants is that they feel more positive about the thought of seeking employment and they feel empowered with the knowledge that there are companies out there willing to give them that second chance they're craving.
I’ve learned not to be so judgemental, I honestly thought that the people on this course would not want to talk about CVs or getting a job but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They were engaged, focused, respectful, and committed to bettering themselves. In fact, I would happily work alongside any of the participants that were on this course. Would you?