Member Stories
Member Story - Joe
Interviewed by Sam, Chief Operating Officer

What was life like for you growing up?

I was quite lucky with my upbringing – my parents were together, and my childhood was very stable. I went to a state school where I tried hard and put effort into my studies.

When did things take a wrong turn for you?

Things started to go downhill for me once I joined Sixth Form College. My behaviour changed due to a mixture of the pressure of my studies, and also some mental health problems – though I didn’t really recognise these at the time. I just put it down to teenage angst. I got through college with lower grades than I was hoping for and found it a hard period socially.

In my second year of university, I was arrested. It was a really big shake-up in my life – it happened out of nowhere. Suddenly, any goals I had were thrown out the window. It’s really hard to see a future when you’re in the middle of a storm and everything feels like chaos.

What was it like being in/coming out of prison?

I was in prison for 16 months. I kept my head down and just focussed on getting out, repeating to myself that ‘this will be my one and only interaction with the Criminal Justice System’.

When I came out, my emotions were mainly relief and fear. Not knowing what to expect was scary, I didn’t know who had heard about my conviction and how people would react to it. On the other hand, it was exciting to get back to my life. Thankfully, my university decided to allow me back to finish my degree, and I ended up graduating with first class honours! However, I knew that this was only the start of a lot more barriers I’d face as a result of my conviction. 

How did you hear about Clean Sheet?

I did a lot of research into charities I could turn to upon my release, but Clean Sheet offered something different. They filled a big gap by offering help solely with employment. About six months after my release from prison I got in touch with Clean Sheet and began my search for employment.

What is life like for you now?

After applying for over 200 jobs, I eventually found one with a construction company, and I’ve been there for four months now. I feel like part of the team. I am really keen to be recognised as a trusted worker and show my own merits separate to my conviction.

I feel like I fit in at my current job – my conviction is merely a constructed barrier, it doesn’t affect my ability at all and I’m really enjoying the stability of being in work. It makes a big difference.

How did Clean Sheet help?

Something I really valued about Clean Sheet was that it was optional whether I disclosed my conviction. I am more than my past, so it was nice that their sole focus was on helping me to find work, and this help wasn’t conditional on my disclosure.

The Employers Directory was a big help. Having a list of progressive employers who are more open to employing people with convictions was great. It was really motivating to see over a hundred employers all in one place, I hadn’t found that anywhere else.

I filled out about 200 applications altogether, and was given two job offers which were then withdrawn at the point of disclosure. I ended up applying to everything which was relevant to me in the directory, and got a bite pretty quickly. It’s hard, because you almost feel like it’s not worth applying when you’ve had so many rejections, but having a list of companies which you know won’t shoot you down at the first hurdle was really motivational.

What’s your hope for the future?

Career-wise, I just crave stability. I could see myself staying in my current job for a long time. Right now, I’m not shooting for the stars, I’m just enjoying the security.

In terms of my personal life, I’m saving up to move out with my partner, and I’m enjoying planning things I couldn’t before I found employment.

“I am more than my past, so it was nice that Clean Sheet’s sole focus was on helping me find work, and this help wasn’t conditional on my disclosure. I really valued all their support”

(Name changed to protect identity)

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