Reducing Re-offending

Prison numbers have risen to an all time high and almost a fifth of the working age adult population in the UK has a criminal conviction. But prison and sentencing does not provide the cure. With some 90% of those sentenced in England and Wales in 2011 having offended before, many people are locked in a cycle of re-offending.

The Issue

This is not a simple issue - people end up offending for a variety of complex reasons, as employers the most powerful thing we can do is help create a second chance for offenders so that it is possible for people with criminal convictions to enter employment and get back on track.

- Marco Pagni,
Group Legal Counsel and Chief Adminstrative Officer, Alliance Boots
There are 85,000 people in prison in the UK today.

  • 17% of the UK population between the ages of 18 and 52 has a criminal conviction more serious than a driving offence.

  • Currently one in five employment benefit claimants have a criminal conviction.

  • 60% of short-term prisoners re-offend within a year of release.

  • Employment reduces the likelihood of re-offending by up to 50%.

Re-offending is estimated to cost the UK around £11 billion per year, but it’s also businesses and local communities that suffer. If individuals are diverted away from the criminal justice system and into employment, they become positive contributors to their local area and taxpayers not recipients of tax spending. 

The case for business involvement

Businesses can offer a route out of re-offending through employment. Without a concerted effort by employers to welcome them, many people who have experienced the criminal justice system won’t even make it to interview let alone into employment.

The positive impacts of supporting ex-offenders into work through programmes like Ready for Work or in-house initiatives are wide-ranging:

  • To society - each re-offending ex-prisoner potentially costs the criminal justice system alone an average of £65,000. Less re-offending also means less crime and fewer victims, creating safer and happier local communities.
  • To individuals – ex-offenders often have experience of the statutory care system and homelessness. Employment offers the opportunity to leave their previous experiences behind and build skills, confidence and motivation.
  • To business - Businesses recognise the value of reaching and retaining talent. When businesses don’t consider skills and abilities over and above criminal convictions, they are missing out on valuable talent. They can also develop their own employees through volunteering opportunities. And by acting on a significant social issue, business can create a very distinctive, high-profile commitment that echoes their responsible business approach.

Related resources

The Ban the Box resource bank has a lot of useful information to help equip employers with the skills and expertise they need to encourage positive disclosure of unspent convictions and assess relevance of criminal convictions to role requirements. Below are a few quick links to some useful resources on the page.

Telling an employer about your criminal record: guide and top tips
Details of what and how (ex) offenders should tell employers about their criminal record.

Ban the Box Organisations: Case studies on how and why organisations have removed the tick box asking about unspent convictions from their application forms.



How to respond to the disclosure of criminal convictions - webinar summary
How to assess the relevance of unspent convictions and embed positive disclosure practises into your recruitment processes.

Criminal Conviction Declaration Form - most roles
An example of best practice for asking about unspent convictions.


Related programmes

Business Action on Homelessness Leadership Team

Key contact

Nicola Inge
Campaign Manager, Work Inclusion

T: 020 7566 8738


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