Award-winning charity to be chaired by Keele Criminologist

Andrew Henley, Lecturer in Criminology, was recently appointed to the role of Chair of Trustees for the award-winning charity Unlock.  This unique organisation was founded by ex-prisoners in 2000 and works with people with criminal convictions who want to lead positive and law-abiding lives in the future but often face discrimination due to the stigma associated with their criminal records.  Whilst this can often relate to accessing insurance, housing or entry onto educational courses, Unlock is currently working on a substantial project titled ‘Fair Access to Employment‘ funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.  This project has included the recent launch of a new website called Recruit! aimed specifically at supporting employers to develop fair and inclusive approaches to job applicants with convictions.

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Andrew has been a member of Unlock’s Board since 2013 and prior to this he conducted research for the charity’s Information Hub – an online repository of self-help information for people with convictions.  His association with the charity is linked to his research interest in the post-sentence impact of criminal records on people’s life chances.  He  has recently submitted his PhD which took the form of a critical history of legal rehabilitation in England and Wales.  The thesis examined in detail the conception and passage of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 – a piece of legislation which enables certain criminal records to become ‘spent’ after a period of time, meaning that they does not need to be declared for most purposes. However, a large number of occupations are exempt from the protections of this Act and prison sentences over a certain length (currently four years) are not capable of becoming ‘spent’ under the law – a position which Unlock have long been involved in challenging.

On his appointment as Chair, Andrew said: “It is a real honour to be leading the Board of Unlock.  With only a small team of staff and volunteers, the charity really does punch above its weight in terms of impact.  Each year it helps hundreds of thousands of individuals with information, advice and advocacy and supports them to move forwards positively with their lives. Crucially, because the charity does not receive funding for delivering services on behalf of government, it is able to take a critical stance and challenge unjust policies and practices, effecting real changes of benefit to the 10.5 million people in the UK with a criminal record.”

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