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introduction of home detention curfew (HDC) which dramatically cut the number of eligible prisoners. In 2001 there were 21 farms and today there are only five, although there exist a greater number of horticultural projects still running.
Different initiatives adopt different criteria in the recruitment and employment of ex-offenders. For example, some will not employ sex offenders, those who have committed terrorism offences, or arsonists. However, all respondents who have experience working with ex-offenders were keen to state that every offence has its own range of severity, therefore those at the lower end of that range might be considered. Recruitment should, therefore, be considered on a case-by-case basis.
How criteria is ultimately defined for the purpose of recruitment can be an extremely sensitive issue. Those responsible for organising the matching process between worker and employer must take into account the environment, other workers on-site, and the perception of consumers, among other things.
“We are a commercial business and we’re not afraid to say that. So, we’re not do-gooders. We aren’t a charity. We believe in what we do. We think it’s the right thing to do for society and it’s obviously fantastic for the people that we help and their families, but we have got a reputation to consider” (Ex-offenders 2)
Recruitment should be targeted according to the requirements of the business, say respondents. A retail-focussed business is, for example, likely to need different skills and personality traits than an agricultural business.
“It’s important to note that different employers and businesses have completely different requirements” (Ex- offenders 2)
“I think if it was being put forward as the entire solution to the problem of labour then that would probably be more likely to land poorly than if it’s being put as a part of the mix” (Labour expert 2)
The farmers we spoke to during this study were open to the possibility of employing ex-offenders, though often with the caveat, ‘it would depend what they’d done’. However, they expressed concern about having to do so with any lack of support.
“Iwouldwantanawfullotofsupport. I wouldn’t just want to be left with them. I would almost want to employ them off of an organization that is placing past offenders and taking a sort of paternal interest in their continuing life and careers. No farmer has got the time or the energy to start getting involved in all sorts of social problems and so we would need support from an organization who looked after those aspects of that job” (Farmer 4)
Other workers within the business would also need to be considered. Some initiatives are very transparent about their employment of ex-offenders, while others believe that it is up to the worker to disclose their history when they feel ready. This potentially poses ethical dilemmas.
“It ain’t a problem to me but it would be a problem for a lot of my workforce, yeah it would. It depends, it depends what they’ve done” (Farmer 1)
However, experienced initiatives who have been successfully assisting ex-offenders in their transition from prison to the workplace state that issues with other workers might not be as commonplace as might be assumed.
Farm labour in the UK | Accessing the workforce the industry needs

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