In prison it can feel like you’ve destroyed any chance of getting a job when you’re released. For Lucy, an employability workshop with Ricoh while she was finishing her sentence dramatically changed her prospects.
Sitting in a meeting room in Ricoh’s head office in London, Lucy looks like any other ambitious young city worker. In just two years she’s progressed in her role and is talking with her boss about new qualifications and an upcoming pay review.
It’s difficult to imagine that two years ago she was still in prison, racing from the office to the train at 5pm to get back before her curfew. Several months before that she had sat down in front of a community investment manager from Ricoh as part of an employability workshop at the prison.
“They said, ‘we’ve got employers coming in, no one get excited, they’re not offering a job but it will be a bit of experience in interviews and stuff.’ Lucy said. “We all put on our best clothes.”
Ricoh’s community investment manager recognised that Lucy already had a good level of skills and experience in administration that the company needed. They could see her potential to learn on the job and wanted to give her that chance.
“A week later I got called into the office and I thought, ‘what have I done?’ but they said, ‘Really good news, one of the employers wants to see you again and they might possibly offer you a position.’ It went from there.”
Getting back into the world of work
Once she became eligible for release on temporary licence (ROTL), which allows prisoners nearing the end of their sentence to leave prison to go to work, Lucy started in her new role. On her first day she didn’t have any work clothes and was embarrassed that she had to show up to the office in jeans but her manager took her shopping and she was made to feel welcome.
“I felt like it was my first day of school…You have that fear: when you’re in prison you’re accepted in a way because everyone’s in the same boat, and I didn’t know how I was going to feel when I came back out to people who might not accept me,” she explained.
“The people that I had here, if I was ever anxious or I was having a panic attack they were like, calm down, you’re going to be fine. They treat you like you are a human and you did just mess up but, do you know what? You’re doing a great job.”
Reducing reoffending through employment
Lucy’s tip for colleagues
“The people that you’re going to be helping are the people who want to do something with their lives. If you trust that person, that person is going to trust and respect you back.”
Lucy is just one of the prisoners who have benefitted from the company’s forward-thinking approach to finding new talent.
Ricoh signed up to Business in the Community’s Ban the Box campaign in 2014, taking the first step to employing ex-offenders through removing barriers to recruitment. Since then, the company has developed relationships with several local prisons to offer employability workshops and Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) work placements to prisoners and has opened a print room in HMP Onley.
Apart from the benefits to the business, Lucy said initiatives like this have a positive impact on the individuals, their families and whole communities through reducing reoffending. She said, the fact that employers from different sectors are going into prisons and showing a willingness to employ ex-offenders was a real boost for the prisoners.
“That drives a lot of people. The fact that massive corporations are employing people obviously gives people more hope,” Lucy said.
“For me, reoffending will never ever be in my mind again. But for some of the girls in there, before they go to employability workshops or they hear from businesses that want to help them, they kind of feel that they have no support out there so their only option would be to reoffend.
“If you think oh, I do have people out there that care and that do want to help, that will obviously bring reoffending down because they won’t need to because they have jobs.”
Tapping into committed workers
Personally, Lucy’s concentrating on progression in the company, gaining new qualifications and giving something back.
“That’s the main thing, I think, they’ve given me so much that I have so much to give back to them…Everything I do I don’t just do it for my benefit I do it for the benefit of the company and everyone.”
And what does she have to say to employers considering employing ex-offenders?
“I think it’s a really great thing and it’s helped me out loads and loads and loads. All the girls that I personally met in there deserve what I’ve been given, so I definitely would recommend it to everyone.”