It all started when James Timpson, the managing director of shoe repair and key-cutting chain Timpson, was so impressed with Matt, an inmate who was showing him round Thorn Cross, a prison near Warrington, that he handed over his business card and asked Matt to get in touch once he was out because he would find him a job. Matt now manages a highly successful Timpson shop and is happily married with two children.
Learn more about James Timpson’s ground-breaking initiative in hiring and training ex-offenders in this film.
Re-offending blights lives and communities, carrying personal, social and economic costs of between £9.5bn and £13bn a year. For about half of all job vacancies, employers are likely to reject most people with a criminal record. There are about 88,000 people in prison. They come in all shapes and sizes, says Timpson chairman (and James’s father) John Timpson, “and among the bad and the tricky are plenty that are fantastic. When interviewing inside prison we use exactly the same standards we use when recruiting on the outside,” he writes in his blog.
“We had so much success, four years ago we opened a training workshop in Liverpool Prison, fitted out like a Timpson shop with our own trainers going in every day teaching prisoners who wear the Timpson uniform. All trainees who pass their skill tests are offered a job on release.
“Some recruits from other prisons started working in our shops while still serving their sentence. This “day release” scheme has been staggeringly successful – 90pc of these ex-offenders have stayed with us for more than a year.
“We have learnt a lot during the last nine years, in particular we now know everyone needs a Dennis. Dennis Phillips, a burly amateur football referee who works in our people support department, took on the role of mentor from day one.
“James had the courage to make employing ex-prisoners a priority but Dennis turned the policy into reality by dealing with the detail and helping these new colleagues with the big range of problems they face outside work. People leaving prison find it tough to get back on their feet.
“We have seen some real success. Out of nearly 300 men and women who have joined us over the last four years we only know of seven who have re-offended.
“But it isn’t just the statistics that tell me we are making a difference, I receive regular evidence during my shop visits whenever one of our recruits from prison talks about their life-changing experience.”