21st November 2010
This article, by Alex Meehan, gives an account of the first hand experience of John, who is participating in the Linkage programme established by Business in the Community, a non-for profit organisation who helps offenders back into education and employment.
‘‘I was locked up several times for periods of time between six and 12 months. It’s been seven years since I’ve been in prison, but I’ve been through a traumatic period. I found it very hard to reintegrate into society,"
It was difficult for John to get a job due to his conviction. He wanted to start over and help people so he began volunteering and is now studying a degree in social studies.
Tina Roche, chief executive of Business in the Community, says that discrimination is one of the toughest barriers that ex-offenders have to overcome and indicates the gravity of the lack of legislation in Ireland:
‘‘In Ireland, you’re allowed to discriminate against people who have a criminal record,” she says.
‘‘If you get a criminal record when you’re 18, you carry that for the rest of your life - there’s no expunging that record, and there are no spent sentences here like there are in other countries. That’s a huge barrier for reformed criminals who want to get their life back together, and get on the straight and narrow. It makes it very hard for them to carry on their life the way that the state wants them to.”
She also maintains that offenders' records could be expunged if they refrain from offending for 5 years.