Women of colour with criminal records face tougher challenges in securing jobs, progressing in their careers, and getting their lives back on track than white women in a similar position, according to a new study. A report from charity Working Chance found that Black women facing the greatest hurdles after release from prison.
‘Racially minoritised women are less likely to have access to social support and services, and more likely to be policed, arrested, and receive harsher punishments than white women, which means their criminal records last longer,’ commented Olivia Dehnavi, research author and policy officer at Working Chance, a charity that supports women with convictions into employment. ‘Long after their sentences are over, racially minoritised women face harsher consequences due to their criminal records. Most employers are hesitant to hire candidates with criminal records so minoritised women are effectively excluded from the job opportunities they need to rebuild their lives and support their families.’
Women are almost three times less likely to be employed upon release from prison compared to men, according to a previous study by Working Chance and the Prison Reform Trust. According to the group discrimination affects women more than men and that women are almost twice as likely as men to have their criminal records disclosed on a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check partly because the professions that women tend to enter, such as education and care work.
The research draws on the lived experiences of women with convictions. Of the women Working Chance supports into employment, more than six out of 10 come from a racially minoritised group (Black, 35%; Asian, 13%; and mixed race, 14%). ‘I did well at school, then trained as a social worker and physiotherapist, and have a Master’s degree. But instead of my achievements, discrimination and my conviction have defined my life for the last ten years,’ said ‘Ruby’, one of the women whose experiences informed the research.
‘A job, an income, and a sense of purpose is fundamental for women to move forward with their lives. Yet these opportunities are made much harder to access for racially minoritised women,’ Natasha Finlayson OBE, Chief Executive of Working Chance said.
‘We urge the government to combat this inequality by accelerating the implementation of recommendations in the Lammy Review and in the Ministry of Justice’s Female Offender Strategy,’ Natasha said. ‘Employers also have a huge role to play to create a fairer playing field, starting with inclusive hiring practices.’