Darren Burns, director of diversity and inclusion for UK service retailer Timpson, spends a lot of time in prisons, given that Timpson is one of the largest employers of ex-offenders and serving prisoners. Around 12% of Timpson’s 5,000 strong workforce across 2,076 branches either has a criminal conviction or has been directly recruited from custody. “The vast majority of people in prison have made a bad choice or a series of bad choices, usually thanks to circumstances, and they just need a second chance,” Burns says. While he believes around a third of the UK’s prison population of around 88,000 is employable, offenses of a sexual, racist or homophobic nature are a no-go, as are terrorism-related convictions, and people with severe addictions and mental health issues need professional support first. Timpson has helped establish a UK government initiative to roll out Employment Advisory Boards across 91 prisons by next spring, and even set up replica stores within some prisons so inmates can learn in a real-life setting.

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