Spent Convictions Act and ex-prisoners

 

Sir, – Discrimination in employment because of a criminal past certainly needs a review (“Discrimination because of criminal past should end, says rights body”, News, November 9th). The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 resembles a football team with most players sitting on the bench. Only 11 per cent of almost 3,000 prisoners reviewed by the Central Statistics Office had employment in 2018. Some 85 per cent of prisoners had no connection to an economic activity. It is no wonder so many former prisoners end up disheartened and depressed or back in prison.

The 2016 Act has so many restrictions to employment that it is very unclear whether a former prisoner should disclose a conviction or not. Additional offences and exclusions were added in 2018 in the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016, revised up to May 25th, 2018.

The Act undermines the goal of the Irish Prison Service in offering rehabilitation to discharged prisoners.

However, the most important exemption in the Act is schedule two, which provides a list of the 18 specified employments where the Act does not apply. The list of 18 exemptions is exclusively employment by the State itself, such as the Defence Forces Reserve. The exclusions, according to my calculations, apply to 35,000 jobs, including cleaning staff, clerical workers and gardeners across the State. The implication is that the State itself does not want former prisoners on its payroll but Tesco and Dunnes Stores should employ them.

Apart from the schedule two exclusions, there are further exclusions in self-employment. An ex-prisoner may not become one of 26,000 taxi drivers across Ireland. Some licensed economic activities are also excluded, such as door supervisors, who stand at the entrances to shops. Here, another 35,000 employment opportunities are added to the list of exclusions.

In total, a minimum of 70,000 jobs or employment places can be crossed off the economic integration plans for former prisoners.

Former prisoners are sentenced to a loss of liberty, not to a life sentence on the margins of society. – Yours, etc,

PAULINE CONROY,

Clonskeagh,

Dublin 14.