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More than 500 firms offer employment to ex-offenders | UK News

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The justice secretary has praised UK businesses for coming forward in their hundreds to offer employment to ex-offenders.

A year after David Gauke called on employers to play a greater role in the rehabilitation of offenders, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that more than 500 businesses – 230 in the past 12 months alone – have now registered to offer work to former prisoners.

In response, the government has announced a change in the rules, allowing many more prisoners the chance to qualify for temporary release so they can take part in work training programmes.

The move is part of a series of measures aimed at cutting reoffending by offering prisoners a route into employment and a more stable lifestyle on release from jail.

Tyler Markarian says giving inmates a chance to work can turn their lives around
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Tyler Markarian says giving inmates a chance to work can turn their lives around

Sky News was given exclusive access to see how one employer, the brewery chain Greene King, is offering hope to ex-offenders.

Preparing food in the kitchen of a pub in Bury St Edmunds, Tyler Markarian has been given a second chance at life after being taken on by Greene King and trained as a chef.

David Gauke will announce that probation services are being brought back in-house
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David Gauke has called on employers to play a greater role in the rehabilitation of offenders

The 23-year-old said he loved his job and the new life it had given him after years in which he had been heading down a path towards self-destruction.

“I went down the wrong route with the wrong crowd, drinking and fighting and stuff. Just got caught a couple of times and got sentenced,” he said.

Mr Markarian was sent to a young offenders’ institution after being convicted for a string of assaults and other offences.

“It did get quite bad, I kinda hated life, hated myself and everyone,” he said. “I was just drinking and on anti-depressants and the mixture got me a bit violent at times and I just hurt people for no reason.”

His life spiralled downwards as he faced the brutal reality of life behind bars.

“It was really hard being in that habitat… everyone around you is in there for similar reasons, if not worse and you know, you ain’t got any friends there.

“You walk out of your cell and you got to watch your back all the time, it’s not easy to live life in there.

“I knew that I couldn’t live life like that anymore, I wanted to do well for my family, for myself and change my life.”

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Brewery chain Greene King has offered hope to ex offenders

That change came when a representative from Greene King reached out to Mr Markarian in prison, offering him a chance to enrol on a training scheme with the company.

The brewery chain has pledged to take on 50 former prisoners by the end of this year.

Graham Briggs, head of apprenticeships at Greene King, told Sky News the scheme was mutually beneficial for his company and for ex-offenders.

He said: “There are lots of positives within this. We’ve gone into some of those prisons and met some of the prisoners and heard their stories and we want to give people a second chance.

“For us, our industry is faced with a shortage of chefs and the prisons have got a number of people with kitchen skills and qualifications and we can see it’s of mutual benefit for both parties.”

The Ministry of Justice said the changes to the Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL) rules would give prisoners more opportunities to work and train with employers while serving their sentence and increase their chances of securing an immediate job on release.

Justice Secretary David Gauke said: “Broadening access to training and work opportunities is a vital part of our strategy to steer offenders away from a life of crime and ultimately keep the public safe.

“Many organisations are recognising the value of giving offenders a second chance, and we have carefully listened to their feedback before making these changes.

“I urge more businesses to join this movement and help ex-offenders turn their backs on crime for good.”

Legal aid spending will be boosted by up to £8m, the Ministry of Justice said
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The MoJ has confirmed that more than 500 businesses have registered to offer work to ex prisoners

Mr Gauke said that strict safeguards and vetting procedures would be in place to ensure only those deemed no longer to be a risk to the public would qualify for temporary release.

Under the new changes, those in women’s prisons will be eligible for paid work immediately after they have passed a risk assessment.

Offenders who transfer to open prisons will also be immediately eligible for work release programmes. Currently, they have to wait three months in an open prison before they are eligible.

Mr Markarian said the chance of employment he was given had allowed him to turn his life around and he urged other companies to offer offenders a second chance.

He added: “It’s important, because people go into prison and they don’t get the opportunity to change their life and sometimes what people need is a job.

“If someone’s a drug dealer who’s been brought up knowing nothing else but that… and they come out and they can’t get employed, they have nothing left to do but to make money on the streets again. So giving a job to them will change their life.”

Official figures show around two-thirds of prisoners reoffend within 12 months of their release, but the chances of reoffending are significantly reduced for those in employment.

Although more than 500 UK companies are now offering employment to prisoners, many more than that are needed to help seriously dent the cycle of reoffending, which costs the UK more than £15bn a year.

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