02.09.2019 Over 60 per cent of employers would hire an ex-offender if supported to do so

Over 60 per cent of employers would be willing to hire an ex-offender if they were supported to do so, while over 50 per cent of the general public say it wouldn’t bother them to have an ex-offender as a colleague. That’s according to new research SOLAS conducted in September 2019, which was discussed at an event exploring how hiring ex-offenders can benefit workplaces.

The event was organised by SOLAS in partnership with Mountjoy Prison, following the two organisations’ partnership on #TEDxMountjoyPrison earlier in 2019, which was the first TEDx talk to take place in an Irish Prison. For the event, SOLAS and Mountjoy teamed up with Ibec to gain insights into employers’ views on hiring ex-offenders.

According to a survey commissioned by SOLAS in the lead-up to the event:

  • 53 per cent of respondents say it wouldn’t bother them to work alongside an ex-offender;

  • 68 per cent of respondents say it wouldn’t bother them to be served by an ex-offender in a customer-service setting;

  • Of the employers / decision-makers surveyed, 59 per cent said they were unaware of any education programmes undertaken that aim to make those serving sentences more employable on completion of their sentence; and

  • 67 per cent of employers said the fact that an applicant had completed education programmes while serving their sentence would encourage them to hire an ex-offender.

Speaking at the event, Nikki Gallagher, Director of Communications and Secretariat at SOLAS, said: “The results of our survey on attitudes to ex-offenders in the workplace are largely positive. Over 60 per cent of employers would hire an ex-offender if they were supported to do so, and almost 70 per cent would be encouraged to do so if they knew the applicant had completed an education programme during their sentence.

“In 2018, there were over 8,500 beneficiaries of SOLAS-funded education programmes across the seven prisons in Dublin, of which 2,367 achieved accredited outcomes. Education programmes in prison are vital in helping to reintegrate ex-offenders into society on release. However, despite having completed such programmes during their sentence, many ex-offenders find it difficult to get a job.

“There are a number of supports available to employers to help them hire ex-offenders, such as training and employment officers who provide support to both the employer and employee before and during employment, as well as financial grants. Ex-offenders are often very committed, hard-working and loyal employees, appreciative of a second chance – there’s a whole pool of talent waiting to be employed.”

In addition to Nikki Gallagher, speakers at the event in Ibec included:

  • Minister of State for Justice and Equality, David Stanton TD;

  • Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Eddie Mullins; and

  • Chef, food entrepreneur and writer Domini Kemp who will be speaking about her experience of running a Prison Entrepreneurship Programme.

Commenting at the event, Eddie Mullins, Governor of Mountjoy Prison, said: “As Governor of Mountjoy Prison, I’ve seen first-hand the transformative effect education can have on prisoners’ lives – how they grow in confidence and self-belief as they complete courses and training.

“Often, on release from prison, this confidence is shattered, due to obstacles faced by ex-offenders in gaining employment, housing, and so on. There are huge opportunities for employers to benefit from hiring ex-offenders – they have undergone high quality education and training while in prison, and want to make positive changes in their lives through hard work and commitment. By availing of the supports available to them to hire ex-offenders, employers and society as a whole will reap the rewards”