Everyone deserves a second chance. Iâ€™ve spoken before about the need for companies to employ people who have criminal histories. This is ultimately good for the individuals, the businesses, and also good for society.
Another thing that would help enormously would be if people who have been in prison for non-violent criminal offences had their slate wiped clean after three years of successful probation. The vast majority of people who are in prison are there for drug-related cases. By limiting their opportunities to find careers when released, they are encouraged to re-offend rather than go on to make a positive contribution to society.
One organisation that is working to give people with criminal histories opportunities is Defy Ventures. This New York â€“based non-profit organisation provides life-changing leadership and job opportunities and is funded and managed by experienced entrepreneurs.
I would like to encourage more companies to proactively recruit ex-offenders. Our experience of this within Virgin has been wholly positive â€“ particularly when working with organisations such as Working Chance, who offer restorative recruitment for women offenders.
I believe our society should do more to support positive initiatives to encourage the rehabilitation of prisoners. We should create more chances for people who have been in jail to make a positive contribution to the workforce.
In Australia, Toll, the transport and logistics group â€“ working with WISE Employment – makes a point of doing exactly this and has employed a number of former prisoners. In the UK, Timpson, the key cutting and shoe repair business, has created a successful programme too.
If many more companies could follow their example then many more ex-offenders would be able to find a purpose in life, worthwhile employment â€“ and everyone would benefit.
Research has shown that most ex-offenders are more committed and willing to do more than just the job. They are grateful for the opportunity to do something worthwhile rather than falling back on their former ways and circumstances.
People often start offending because of an unfortunate upbringing or bad circumstances within their families. Maybe a good employer and the positive influence of work colleagues can, in part, be a replacement for a dysfunctional family.
When I talk to our Virgin CEOs, I do urge them to do more to help. This is not always possible in some sectors such as aviation where security restrictions would make it difficult, but we strive to do our best where we think we can give people another chance. I urge as many other companies around the world as possible to do so too.