Category Archives: forensics

A criminal waste, a disabled society. Unlock Your Future.

Easter is a time for reflection. I have been reflecting on the many people it has been my privilege to meet over the years. Many of the people I have worked with are people that the Jesus that I like to imagine would recognize: vulnerable, damaged, disenfranchised, hostile, broken, pathetic, lost, abused. I like them.

Disability is a strange concept, and many of the people with disabilities who I know would strongly suggest that it is not them with the disability but society, culture, which is disabled or which provides the disability. We build streets fit for the able bodied, buildings that exclude all but the well and the fit, work that suits only the driven and the straight and “normal”.  We see “work” as a means for economic growth and acquisition, and ignore the very real other benefits work can bring such as purpose, esteem, quality of life, respect. We patronise the successful disabled and express astonishment at their success. We create targets and drivers that take no account of alternative talents and aspirations, that fail to value otherness, indeed in a tabloid sense disability is so often viewed simply as a problem, a drain, a fiscal error.

If you look for the word “disability” online these are some of the words you get:

handicapafflictiondisorderdefectimpairment, disablement, infirmity  incapacityweaknessinability • Disability can make extra demands on financial resources.

Transfer those words to our environment and see what happens. Our shops have defects and will not allow wheelchairs in, our streets are afflicted with high kerbs and a lack of ramps, many work environments lack the capacity to value a range of people and talents and are, as a result, weak and impaired. Recruitment is afflicted by a set of rules and processes that despite legislation and encouragement still often excludes too many and that handicaps the workforce.

I would go further and suggest that people with a criminal history have been handicapped or disabled by society. Their forensic history effectively cripples their employment potential and afflicts their family life. If we suppose that it is indeed society and our culture that creates disability, in effect cripples its citizens, it follows that society can redress that. Some legislation attempts to do that by supporting “equal opportunities”, but equal ops can only happen if we view all candidates with an equal eye and the work environment is capable of accepting all candidates equally.

If you look for the word “criminal” online these are some of the words you get:

unlawfulillicitlawlesswrongillegalcorruptcrookedviciousimmoralwicked, culpable, disgracefulridiculousfoolishsenselessscandalouspreposterousdeplorable

I notice that none of those characteristics is irreversible. They are a description of how it is at the moment, not how it will be in the future. If we continue to exclude people from employment, to ignore the many benefits a varied and experienced workforce can bring, to expect jobless hopeless futureless people to suddenly somehow behave like employed, hopeful people with aspirations on release from prison, we set ourselves up to fail, and we fail our communities.

I don’t suggest for a moment that we employ anyone and everyone into any vacancy without safeguards and safety nets. I don’t do soft and fluffy. I do however suggest that we create those safeguards and safety nets and take the trouble to include the excluded and create a properly integrated and cohered environment in which everyone is valued, has the space to grow, and has their aspirations valued. Not because it is soft and fluffy, but because it reduces the risks of offending, of disaffection, and increases the chances of people buying into their communities and making the effort to support their futures and crucially it means we reduce the risk of missing out on some serious talent. Back in the day when social and health care services were even more rigid in their outlook than they are now, I employed an ex-offender who had done time for murder. I employed him in elder care. This was not universally welcomed…….But I ran the checks, created the risk assessment, spoke to the people I needed to speak to and importantly offered him a mentor and some effective support to re-adjust. It was a success.

No-one would suggest  there is an easy answer or that it is a simple matter. But that is not a good enough reason not to try.

No Offence CiC is a social enterprise  and I am lucky enough to be on the Board. We are not driven by private profit and we facilitate open access to crime and justice information. By challenging barriers to positive change and influencing future policy, our objective is simple: to make a difference. My own organisation, Mayall Management Ltd, is proud to support the Unlock Your Future project that No Offence is driving.

http://www.no-offence.org/

Unlock your Future

‘Breaking down barriers to employment for people with convictions’

This project will focus on identifying and breaking down the barriers to employment for people with convictions, to bring employers and employees together.

A simple key discreetly placed on a job advert will indicate that this employer will consider all applications on their merit and not their past.

Many employers have a skills shortage and would benefit from an increased pool of suitable candidates from which to recruit.

Unfilled vacancies can have an economic impact on any business and increase pressure on other employees attempting to make up the resourcing short fall.

We need a network of champions to raise awareness of this project and support employers to use the key either on their own website and/or on our jobs board and spread the word to those people looking for a job and also recruit other champions. Could you help us?

Employment provides us with a significant opportunity to break the cycle of reoffending. If you are an employer please join our network and we will send you the key to use free of charge.

http://www.no-offence.org/static-page/unlock-your-future/

 

Add some integrity and stir…….

I ambled around the idea of being selfish in the last blog, mainly because I had been, and I was doing a bit of self-justification. But it set me off on a canter about integrity – I was selfish, and left a project, because I wanted to maintain my integrity. It had taken considerable reflection and planning, and was not a whim or a fancy, and I had done my best to reinvigorate the role in the first place when I realised it, or maybe I, was going off the boil,  and to put in place all I could put in place to reduce the risks of me leaving, but it was still a rigorous decision making process not without its pain. And I did my usual agonising thing about it before and after, although after was easier because the decision was made, and it was a good one. But I was leaving behind some great people and had had some real fun and achievement out of it.

So…….integrity. What is it? And why is it powerful enough to make me lose sleep?!

“Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.  The state of being wholesome; unimpaired.  The quality or condition of being complete, pure.”  That was what the dictionary said.

“Reduced risk of compromising moral or ethical ideals, a need to move on before effectiveness is crucially impaired” is what my head said.

I will not claim to be pure, wholesome, or even complete, but I do claim to have some moral integrity and a bit of an ethical code motoring around in my aura.

My company has the tag line “Henry Ford said: quality means doing it right even when no-one is looking. We agree.” When we started the company we started out with ideals which are still as fresh as the day we started: we have a sincere and genuine commitment to people, to human rights, parity of services and equality of opportunity. We believe that everyone, regardless of all the usual suspects like race, (dis)ability, religion, gender, sexuality, forensic history and so on has a right to a Normal Existence and the support to create that. We have been around a long long long time most of which has been spent in and around different kinds of  health and social services and have seen it all – as it says on our website (www.mayallmanagement.co.uk) we have seen the Good the Bad and the Ugly. And our experiences drove us to want to influence and improve – to make sure that, wherever possible, we made things better for people, with people.

S0……… we have Integrity, dammit, and sometimes that means we have to take difficult decisions.

I have made the decision, a number of times, not to take a piece of work because I am not confident that the prospective client actually wants to improve rather than just meet compliance. We are not interested in simply or solely meeting compliance targets, although that matters very much indeed. It is my belief that in order to continue to reach people who need to be reached we have to reach compliance targets as a given before moving into the work that makes a difference. But that is only the first step, the loosening of the stabilisers on the pushbike before taking off and getting the yellow jersey. If an organisation or group – or even a single service – wants to make things better and actually make a real difference to the people using and working in their services, then  I am there, will go the extra mile or ten, will work with them as hard as it takes to make that difference. If I don’t see that commitment and understanding then I will walk away. And that sometimes costs us money!!!!! But some things are more important. We are good at what we do and can  make that genuine difference, but not if the organisation hiring us has different goals or is looking for a different set of results. I can cut your costs, but  won’t do it at the expense of quality. I can reduce your  staffing but I won’t do that if it leaves people at risk. But I can cut your costs and improve your quality if you don’t think throwing money at services improves them but rather it is about leadership and direction. I can reduce your staffing if you can think creatively about what you do and what the people using your services actually want rather than what you think you can or should provide.

So, I think what I am leading to is that my integrity caused me to take what could be seen as a perverse decision: I walked away from a project before completion because I knew that I could not, if I was to understand my own motivation, remain in place as effectively as I had been given the changed circumstances. I would, to put it simply, not have performed. Not have wanted to perform might be nearer the truth. I would not have done the best that I could for the client hiring me, or for the people using and working in their services. So integrity meant that I moved on. Integrity also meant that I did everything possible to mitigate that before moving on, as well.

I like my integrity – it walks with me and reminds me why I do what I do and that it isn’t all about me. It does sometimes give me a hard time and a sleepless night, but I forgive it because it has also meant that I have met an infinite number of great people and had opportunities to make a difference and have had a real ball along the way. And it continues! I am having another great time with some fab people even as we speak, and if my integrity had not pushed me away from my last project I would not be in my current project and loving every minute of it. Thank you, Integrity! You may join my bad knee in the list of Unexpected Things That Have Improved My Life………

Restorative Justice starts here……..

….with you and with me.

I have been following The Forgiveness project for a while now – it is a  a UK-based charitable organisation which explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution through real-life human experience. They work in prisons, schools, faith communities, and with any group who want to explore the nature of forgiveness whether in the wider political context or within their own lives.  The Forgiveness Project has no religious or political affiliations.

I work at the moment, and have done previously, with people with many reasons to forgive and be forgiven and little opportunity to do either as survival is the priority. When I read and hear the countless personal stories in my own sphere as well as through the Forgiveness Project the bitter defiance and hunger of the unforgiving almost pierces the skin. Those who are unforgiven are lacking in a human aspect, but those who are unable to forgive suffer more with each reminder of what they cannot forgive. 9/11 is opening some dreadful wounds and there is some toxic stuff coming out, poisoning the future for those who cannot forgive. It is not their fault.

One of the things I have reflected on is my own lack of forgiveness. Not towards others – I could not bear a grudge  for the winning lottery ticket – but towards myself. More than the usual perfectionist thing of  beating-oneself-up at work, I have also consistently failed to forgive myself for just about every possible wrong I have committed. An example: recently we adopted a greyhound and had everything in place to allow him to get used to our much loved cat before letting them loose together. But it went horribly wrong – as I describe it I can just about smile with a grimace – it all sounds a bit Brian Rix to me now – the dog killed the cat, but while it was all happening and we were trying to separate them I was hauling on the dog and found blood on my hands. I instantly knew what I had to do and I punched the dog to the ground to free the cat, but it was too late. All over in seconds. I took the cat to the vet at once but he was too badly mauled and we had to do the decent thing. I blame myself, of course. Not only that but a few days later I ran over a blasted rabbit while driving to work down one of those country roads where the small animals fling themselves suicidally under the wheels of passing cars in the early hours. I should add I am vegetarian. Picture that. I arrived at work feeling like Jack the sodding Ripper.

But more painful and more troubling than all the other transgressions rolled into one is the one I find most difficult to even think about forgiving myself for: my Mother died earlier this year after a stroke – my Father had died three years before after a stroke as well. She suffered the most degrading and neglectful nursing in hospital at first until I made a quiet fuss and things improved. But my own shock and pain and the need to be constantly on the alert – no time to take ones eye off the ball –  to ensure decent care for her made it difficult for me to do as much as I should have done. I played her favourite music for her through my headphones on my iPod as she died, sharing it with her with one earpiece in one of my ears and the other earpiece in one of her ears – I do not know if she heard, the stroke was so massive and so determined to take her that it was not possible to know if she knew I was there or not. But just in case, I held her hand, played her music, talked a bit and sat with her and waited, for such a long time. I did things like the crossword in the Telegraph and read a bit as well to keep a grip on my sanity – but I so regret that now. Why didn’t I keep talking and playing music all the time? Or would that have just been annoying for her – perhaps she preferred to have some peace, some quiet to contemplate and prepare? I know that whatever I did it was the wrong thing and the right thing, and as I can never know I am unsure about how to  forgive myself. Relationships are complex and we had a challenging relationship – she was a charming but difficult woman and I suppose I am a little assertive… All of which means I am left with the most tremendous guilt, which is unfair on the rest of the family who bear it with me.

But the people I have heard and read during my following of this project have caused me to reflect: they are humbling in their own humility and forgiveness and need to understand, and somehow, their forgiveness starts with themselves, their understanding is rooted within. I need to think that through, perhaps there is work to be done – perhaps I should remember that my Mother would probably forgive me, and if she can, maybe I should also forgive myself and free myself up to forgive others, let me and let my family off  the hook. I need to do that if I am to prepare my children for what may happen in the future too and reduce their pain in advance. Like the outstanding, human people you will read about if you follow this link    http://theforgivenessproject.com/about-us/

Please do – for your sake as well.

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