21st October 2010
Change the Record is a new campaign from Nacro, the UK crime reduction charity, to help ex-offenders back to work by tackling discriminatory practice and laws that prevent them finding a job. The campaign focuses on amending the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.
Nearly 40 years after the legislation became law in the UK, we are still waiting on Spent Convictions legislation in Ireland. Although a Spent Convictions Bill was introduced in 2007, and despite general consensus that it is an important and valuable piece of legislation that is expected to go through with little opposition, work on the bill has been slow. It is now expected to be presented at committee stage in the Oireachtas in early 2011.
Spent Convictions legislation is so-called "second chance legislation", designed to help people with criminal convictions move on from their past. Although it does not wipe a criminal record clear, it means that, after a set period of time conviction-free, people do not have to declare a past conviction to potential employers - unless the job is in a sensitive area, such as working with children or with vulnerable adults. It does not apply to more serious offences.
Securing employment is one of the main protections against reoffending; by corollary, denying employment opportunities to people with criminal records increases the risks of re-offending. It is in everyone's interest that ex-offenders are supported in moving on; Spent Convictions legislation is a vital step in supporting former offenders in their return to active engagement with society.