Sadly, AJ’s story is not an unusual one. As a young man, he made some bad choices which saw him sent to prison. Yet despite spending the last 9 years trying to make amends, it seems as though he’ll never be allowed to leave the past behind.

Back in 2011 as a 21 year old man I got into an illegal and immoral “relationship'” (I use the quotes because I now see that relationship isn’t the right word for this) with a child aged 13. You might ask why? You might ask how? – none of that matters because the fact is I was guilty.

At around the same time, a friend and myself got into an altercation and, in self-defence, I punched him. Was that the right thing to do? Absolutely not.

I admitted my guilt in both cases and received a sentence of 4 years and 3 months, a SOPO and I was put on the Sex Offenders Register for life. Although I can apply to come off the register after 15 years, my conviction can never become spent because I was sentenced to 12 weeks over the threshold for what the government deem suitable for rehabilitation.

It’s that word that confuses me; ‘rehabilitation’, surely that gives the impression that everyone at some point will get the chance to not have a past mistake or mistakes haunt them until the day they die?

Since my release from prison, I’ve held down a job and have been in a long term relationship. My partner, friends, family and employers are all aware of my conviction and have all said the same

Your past doesn’t define you now or in the future”.

So, why doesn’t our government think the same?

In the last 2.5 years I’ve studied to become a personal trainer and really want to start my own business, surely this is showing a real willingness to change and make a better future for myself and my family. However, even though I’ve spent thousands of pounds on my education I’m struggling to move my business on because I’m finding it virtually impossible to get insurance. I often hear people citing that everyone is entitled to a second chance but will that ever become a reality.

Whatever you’ve been convicted of, you’ll have hurdles to climb following your release from prison but shouldn’t your punishment stop at that point?

I get that the general public struggle to be sympathetic for anybody with a sexual offence and, as hard as I find dealing with the constant punishment, I can understand it to a certain extent. But, what about my family – they’ve done nothing wrong but yet they’re affected by my criminal record. They pay more for home insurance just because they’ve offered me a place to live, they’ve been abandoned by some of their friends because they’re son has been sent to prison and, if they ever need an enhanced DBS check for work, they’ll worry about whether the police are going to drag up my past – is this right?

If you ever question the fairness of this you’ll be told:

That’s just the way it is”

It seems society isn’t content with sending me to prison and that me and my family should continue to be punished for life.

By AJ  (name changed to protect identity)

A comment from Unlock

Since we started as a charity 2000, Unlock has been a passionate advocate for change; challenging bad practice and influencing the attitudes of policy makers and the public to help people like AJ who continue to be punished for something they did many years ago.

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