I had my disciplinary meeting the day before yesterday. At the end of the meeting I was offered the chance to resign rather than face dismissal and for the good of my “Permanent Record”, I took it. All I had to do was write out; “I (my name) hereby resign with immediate effect (date)”.

It was a simple call centre job-inbound- that involved taking calls from policy holders with the company, whose business is to supply warranties for white and brown goods. Following the 3 week training period, I would be taking calls and providing the customers with the details they needed to activate their warranties, which would include providing them with the pertinent repair firm details and reassuring them that a replacement would be provided if worst came to worst. There was also an element of upselling. The upsell was more warranties, the theory being that as the consumer was seeing their warranty in action, it would be the optimum time to offer them further cover for their treasured household appliances. Strike while the iron is hot, if you’ll excuse the appliance-related pun.

The job only paid around 14k per annum basic wage (20-25 ote) , and I had once upon a time vowed never to work in any vaguely sales-oriented job again, but the fact that I had been offered a permanent role at a large reputable firm really made me feel that I could maybe start living a normal life. Perhaps I really could firmly put my past in its place.

I have served three prison sentences.  The first one was for 8 months (served 4) when I was 19. The fact that I had not been able to join the army for 7 years, and was prevented from many other forms of employment – after that ridiculous blip had been the source of endless frustration and despondency  on my part.  I had again and again found dead ends when seeking to further my career and my personal development and eventually, being a callow youth, had given up and resigned myself to a life on benefits. The hopelessness of this predicament had eventually led to me once again serving another sentence, seven years later, of 9 months (served 4.5) at the age of 26.  Neither of these offences involved violence, and both were the direct result of imbibing too much alcohol and various other substances, and the wanton behaviour that resulted.

Upon release in the summer of 2009, I tried my upmost to get a basic minimum wage job in a kitchen porter type role in my small town, but my reputation preceded me and after applying for all of the jobs I could, I eventually ended up marooned on benefits and descending once again into drink and drug problems. And this time opiates were starting to make an appearance in the mix, making me feel more creative and less depressed despite the worsening situation. Of course that is testament to the delusory ability opiates have, making it possible to sleepwalk into a life of living death.

Eventually I got the big sentence. 5 Years. However this time things did change. I had been hoping for a bit of a stretch in which to truly get myself sorted out; get the degree; get fit, get off the fags, the booze and the drugs. However I hadn’t anticipated it to coming about in the messy way it did, falling out with friends, one of whom picking up some nasty injuries thanks to me. Once again the whole situation had run away from me, seemingly snowballing and acquiring a terrible momentum of its own. I felt terrible. But after a period of lying in my cell in a blue funk of lament and melancholy for a few weeks, it began to dawn on me that this was the chance I had to really change things.

During the sentence I did the education bit acquiring nearly 120 credits toward a degree with the open university  on a part time course, gained various NVQ’s at level 2 and 3, wrote a lot, gave up smoking, got fit and started meditating. I avoided drugs and even got my own prison radio show! It seemed like I had finally grown up.

I got out and worked numerous menial and temp jobs. My sentence plan and probation all went well and I found a modest house share in which to live. After a year of being out the chance of a permanent role came up and I jumped at it. I even turned down another job for it, temp, but with a good chance of becoming permanent and at a company I had enjoyed working at before , in order to take up the offer.

My heart hit the floor when I opened the email which required me to submit 6 years of address history, 3 years of work history etc. I was being comprehensively vetted for a simple call centre role and had absolutely not anticipated such a thing happening. This was a big faux pas on my part. Naturally I had omitted to mention my prison sentence on my CV, but crucially I had also skipped over the criminal record information bit on the application form. This was of course my fault for lying, but what could I do? They wouldn’t have given me a second chance if they would have seen the details of my offence, and I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition for such a mundane position, a position for which they wouldn’t have taken  a first glance at my history if I was temping.

The obvious course of action seemed to be just not showing up to the permanent role and see if I could somehow salvage the temp one that I had turned down. However my friends, family and girlfriend made a good case for coming clean. This seemed like a noble idea, and I did really like the idea of working at the place. ‘ So’ I thought, ‘when I go in on Monday, perhaps if I just let the HR lady know there is a bit of a blemish on my record, then they will just appreciate my candidness and let it slide’.

I’m not sure where this blinding flash of wishful thinking came from, as I am normally quite cynical.  But clearly I should have just gone with my original ‘cut and run’ plan.

Following the disciplinary meeting, in which the HR people were ever so nice and supportive, providing encouragement and best wishes for the future after accepting my resignation, I got back in touch with the agency. The chap I worked with at the agency (who had now also found out about my past) had promised me that in this eventuality, he would help me find more temp work. However I now haven’t heard from him in days. The same goes for the other agency who I clearly alienated by taking the permanent job over their temp one. Safe to say next time I will most likely put something in the criminal record declaration part of the application form.

I am tired and frustrated and back to square one. Luckily I still have some menial shifts at a restaurant. It’s back to hard work, anti-social hours, little pay, peeling hands and greasy skin. However this set back is not driving me back to wanton oblivion and abandonment of hope, such as set me back all the other times in my life. I have a nice girl who seems to like me for who I am, and a job at least, regardless of its mind-numbing dead-endedness. All I can do is persevere. Persevere and hope that it pays off.

By Valerie (name changed to protect identity)

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