Unlocking Talent: Recruiting Individuals with Experience of the Criminal Justice System

Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 19 October 2023
Martin Reilly
Issues covered: Recruitment and Selection, Criminal Justice System

As an organisation which was created in part to support people leaving the prison system, over 40 years ago, Extern knows only too well the challenges faced by those seeking to find a more positive path forward in life. Every year, almost 25,000 people benefit from Extern’s support in 28 counties in NI and ROI, across a range of issues. These include Young People and Families; Housing and Homelessness; Mental Health & Suicide; Alcohol & Drugs; Minority Communities; Justice Services; and Skills/Employability, among others.This also includes those who have been through the criminal justice system, or those who are at risk of becoming trapped within a cycle of anti-social and/or criminal behaviour 

We believe there can be huge potential benefits in employing someone who has lived experience of some of the significant challenges and traumas our service users experience. Crucially, this offers the opportunity for someone to be able to ‘give back’ to those who are on a similar path that they themselves might once have been on. Indeed, this altruistic approach – to impart upon others the benefit of your own personal experience - is a key aspect of rehabilitation.  

An organisation’s greatest asset is their peopleemployers need to ensure they have an inclusive attitude towards the employment of people who have been through the criminal justice system whilst balancing this with considerations such as vetting and risk assessment.Specifically, organisations who engage in ‘regulated activity’ are subject to criminal vetting as part of pre-employment checks, both via Access NI and the Garda Vetting Bureau.Whilst a criminal conviction may not necessarily prevent someone from being employed, criminal disclosures can be subject to a robust risk assessment to determine whether any conditional offer of employment can be confirmed.  

Key takeaways for HR: 

  • Ensure your approach to recruitment and selection is objective and fair, with a clear policy and supported by comprehensive training for managers. 

  • Ensure transparency in the job advert to ensure that applicants are made aware when a role requires a criminal record check 

  • Remove any part of the recruitment process that may create a perception of bias – only seek information on criminal convictions at the point where you have put a conditional offer to an applicant (and not before then). 

  • Ensure objectivity and balance when assessing criminal conviction disclosures, in terms of how materially relevant they are to the job role being recruited for – have a robust risk assessment process in place. 

Underpinning an organisation’s approach to recruitment and selection in general - and specifically the employment of those who have been through the criminal justice system - is an investment in staff development and training. Anyone involved in hiring should complete recruitment, selection and onboarding training before they can be part of a panel. As part of this training, focus should be placed on topics such as fair employment, direct and indirect discrimination, protected characteristics and unconscious bias.  

Extern believes that ‘another chance can change a life’, and we ensure this is reflected in our approach to recruitment of people who have been through the criminal justice system, through a process that is fair, inclusive, non-discriminatory, but with robust safeguards in place. Through this, we can provide meaningful and truly life-changing career opportunities for those who might otherwise find themselves marginalised in the employment market.  

Legal Island Training Resources for Your Staff

HR Toolkit | eLearning Course

Are you responsible for overseeing the implementation of training for all employees in your organisation?
Legal Island has created an HR Toolkit that aims to provide comprehensive training to assist HR professionals in supporting line managers and employees throughout the employee journey. The suite of courses will offer practical advice to assist you in updating your processes and procedures and help you understand your legal obligations.

Click here to view our HR toolkit.

This article is correct at 19/10/2023

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Martin Reilly

The main content of this article was provided by Martin Reilly. Contact telephone number is 02890 840555 or email Martin.Reilly@extern.org

View all articles by Martin Reilly