• Mellisa Pacheco, Reformed Develpment CIC

The difficult transition of a person with a conviction

Yesterday I heard a phrase that made me sad “I would rather go back to prison’’

I wonder how many people have felt like this?

In prison you know what is expected of you, three meals a day, a warm place to sleep, you don’t have to worry about paying bills, keeping a roof over your head or being judged. It was heart breaking listening to this man and his life regrets, hearing the desperation in his voice, telling me how trying to be a better person has left him worse off, lonely and isolated with no family to rely on. He is so eager to make an honest living, but having no specific skills one of which is computer skills, I can see the frustration as he has been told he must do everything online.

As a result of this he cannot meet the criteria of job seekers allowance and has been sanctioned. I can see his genuine fear of losing his home if he cannot pay the rent. He is left vulnerable and I feel with no support, this “sanction” could lead this man to re-offend and I can’t believe there is no support .

From this experience, I feel the Government support agencies we have in place should look at people as individuals instead of expecting everyone to know "just know" what’s expected of them.

This man was institutionalised for a long time, give him a chance to right the wrongs and be productive in society and maybe just maybe, someone could find the time to help him with his job search instead of taking what little money he gets away from him and forcing him closer to homelessness and hunger.

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