Knowing that you’ve got a job to go to on leaving prison can relieve a lot of worry and anxiety. Michaela’s story sets out her experience of securing employment with Timpson’s whilst she was in prison and then upon release. 

 

My name is Michaela and I’m an ex-offender.

When I was 21 years old I was convicted of a drunken violent offence, which happened while I was still a teenager. In a second, a mindless act changed so many lives. My actions were out of character however I knew I had caused another person serious harm and for that I was sorry and I knew I had to be punished. I was sentenced to 4 years in prison.

Unsure of the prison system I felt like my life was in the complete control of other people. I knew I had a long journey ahead of me, I kept my head down, made a few friends and got on with what was now my life. In prison.

The prison experience for me wasn’t all bad. Of course, there were times I found myself in tears. Hours, days and even weeks were spent thinking and wishing things were different but nothing could ever change the situation I was in. I found strength from regular contact with my family and the close friends I had made on the inside and I spent a lot of time reading and writing. Any course the prison had on offer to further my education and skills, I jumped at. I completed various IT qualifications and also gained my Level 2 Certificate in gym-based exercise and physical activity as well as studying for a Stonebridge distance learning diploma in Personal Development Coaching.

A little over a year into my sentence I was finally given Cat D status and this meant I could now start to do unpaid voluntary work outside of the prison during the day and return back to the prison after work. I was thrilled. I couldn’t wait to get out of there for the day. My first voluntary job role was in a charity shop.

I heard on the grapevine that a company call Timpson were coming into the prison to interview potential employees to give them the opportunity of paid work, training and a chance of employment on release. I spoke to the officer in charge of the outwork scheme and got myself a place on the meet and greet list. A few weeks later the Foundation Ambassador for Timpson, Darren Phillips, came into the prison and interviewed about 12 women. I think they had about 6 vacancies so we were all nervous and feeling fiercely competitive. Well I was anyway. After a brief chat about the company and their quest to find untapped talent in prisons it was time for the one to one interviews and I was up first. My interview went well and I was listed for a second interview two weeks later with the area manager.

My second interview went well and I was offered a paid job. I would be working full time, 40 hours a week and I would get paid. From my wages I had to pay for my own travel to and from work and 40% of my salary was taken out to contribute towards the victim support fund. That was fine by me, I couldn’t wait to get started. Things were looking up for me. The job involved a 16 week training programme – luckily I only had 20 weeks left on my sentence.

My training in store was going great, I passed the relevant skills test and I enjoyed the environment I was in. It wasn’t long before I would be going home and I was keen to ensure that I had a job when I returned to my home town. I contacted the area manager who covered the town I would be going back to and once again I was asked to head to a new store for another interview. I took with me glowing references from my existing manager who spoke highly of me and my work ethic and I was offered another 16 week training period to start the day after I was released from prison. 16 weeks later I was offered a permanent full time position in the store closest to my home, I was over the moon.

I’ve now been a store manager for just over 6 months and I am looking for other great opportunities like the one offered to me by Timpson, to gain more skills and knowledge in different areas. If I can make it this far, why stop now? I have a fantastic work ethic and my ambition is driving me to search for other roles, open up different doors and a new chapter of my life.

I always believed it was easier to find a job when you already had one – I have dedicated a significant amount of time to writing CV’s and applying online for various jobs and registered with different recruitment agencies and here is where I have found a problem. On every single registration form and application form, the dreaded box to tick – ‘Do you have any unspent criminal convictions?’

I find this extremely worrying, as a potential employer will already know I have a conviction before they’ve even met me. Regardless if the conviction in no way effects my ability to work in said position and regardless of how long ago my conviction was, with no other offences in the last 7 years.

This will in no way stop my journey, if anything it has just motivated me even more to make something of myself. I have been in touch with a recruitment agency that is dedicated to helping ex-offenders make it back into employment. I have also contacted a number of charities for any help and advice they can offer me on disclosing my convictions.

My name is Michaela, I’m a dreamer, a mother, a provider, a young woman with passion, ambition and a strong resilience to not let a mistake as a teenager define the rest of my life.

By Michaela

This post originally appeared in the May edition of Inside Time with the title ‘Who I am’ and is reproduced with permission and thanks.

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