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How do you find work as a released sex-offender?
‘It’s ok if you were in for robbery or murder, but sex offending, that’s a no no’: a qualitative analysis of the experiences of 12 men with sexual convictions seeking employment.

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Prejudice and stigma

It is widely accepted that individuals with convictions are disadvantaged when trying to access the job market. People convicted of sexual offences face further prejudice and stigma given the nature of the most extreme examples of their offences. Desiring employment but being unable to secure it presents challenges for the individual. New research by Laura Tovey, Belinda Winder & Nicholas Blagden focuses on the real and perceived barriers that twelve British men experienced while seeking employment with a criminal record pertaining to a sexual offence.

Entitled: ‘It’s ok if you were in for robbery or murder, but sex offending, that’s a no no’: a qualitative analysis of the experiences of 12 men with sexual convictions seeking employment” , the research investigates two main themes:

  1. Stigma as a Barrier to Employment explored the impact of the disclosure of the sexual criminal record at interview and the enduring stigmatisation the participants faced as a result of the ‘sex offender’ identity.
  2. Participants sought to explain the personal significance of being employed, and how their inability to secure employment had resulted in the loss of autonomy and the introduction of self-isolating behaviours.

Finally, interviewees acknowledged having felt ‘better off’ in prison at times, due to the lasting effects of social exclusion. 

People who commit sexual offences

The authors describe how sex offenders are often excluded from the usual narratives around rehabilitation. They note that sexual offences cover a range of behaviours, from the most serious of offences to ‘17-year-olds sending sexual images of themselves to their partners’. However, it is the most extreme examples of these offences which are publicised by the media and have a lasting effect on public opinion. Studies show the prejudice towards this group is so great even men with paedophilic interests who have not committed an offence face more stigma than individuals who have committed violent offences. 

People with a conviction for a sexual offence are the most despised of all prisoners and ex-prisoners, and are considered largely irredeemable by the public. This stigma, together with the fear that surrounds sexual crime, is a major contributory factor in the challenge of attaining employment by people with sexual convictions.

The shame and stigma of a sexual offence mean people with sexual convictions typically re-enter the community under worse conditions than they were living in before their incarceration. They may have increased restrictions placed upon them, which constrain them from certain jobs or workplaces.

The authors acknowledge why certain jobs are no longer available for this group, but note that the overall reduced opportunities for work can reinforce social isolation and, incongruously, increase the risk of reoffending. Employment mitigates against this risk.


Stigma as a barrier to employment

Interviewees discussed the ‘sex offender identity’ and the barrier this posed to securing employment. Upon disclosure of sexual offence histories, employers’ reactions were likened to a sudden explosion. Participants described the realisation that employers and other members of the public saw them as ‘monsters, not fit for human company’. Deeper investigation identified that participants had become accustomed to employers holding ingrained stigmatised views but did not always accept those views as fair.

The most pertinent theme emerging in all participant accounts was their concern regarding the disclosure of their conviction to employers. While all participants described this as being a fundamental barrier, categorically resulting in the termination of interviews or job offers withdrawn, it was the experience itself which was traumatic for many. Employer reactions to the disclosure of the sexual criminal record evoked a powerful sense of shame and disgrace, such as the one reproduced below:

Everything going fine, yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve done this, you’ve done that, etc., and it’s cool – oh by the way, what was you in for? So obviously I had to disclose and as soon as I disclosed it was like a bombshell – the whole interview went completely west after that, it just died. And the worst thing about it was there’s the woman, she started visibly shaking, she was upset, and this, that and the other. The guy was obviously shocked and I didn’t know how to handle it. This was my first ever interview, I’ve only been out a few weeks, this is like the first time. I didn’t know what to say or what not to say.

Autonomy and control

The researchers highlighted the way that the interviewees talked about their lack of autonomy and control. Employment provided not only the means to live autonomously, but also a sense of personal achievement and mastery. So, being excluded from the workforce meant not having the chance to have control over their lives. Participants described being cautious about disclosing their criminal convictions in their personal lives. They described periods of losing hope for the future and feeling that freedom at such a high price was not truly freedom.

Better off in prison

Seven of the twelve interviewees reported that they understood why some ex-prisoners felt their life in prison had more value than life outside. This was based on several interlinking factors: exclusion from meaningful work, financial problems, stigma, isolation, absence of opportunity for friendships and – crucially – a lack of hope that things would ever improve.


The researchers conclude that while people who have committed sexual offences may receive support around their individual, social or accommodation needs, until there is a shift to view the individual rather than label, employment opportunities are unlikely to drastically improve for people with sexual convictions. They note that employment provides individuals with basic financial autonomy but emphasise that employment is important for so many other reasons: not least, as an opportunity to reduce social isolation and a critical way of providing a chance to invest in society and gain a sense of purpose and satisfaction.

Thanks to Steve Johnson for kind permission to use the header image in this post which was previously published on Unsplash.

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20 Responses

  1. Pingback: Second chance…
  2. The problems stem from combination of the iniquities of the sex-offenders register, which tends to lump all sex-offenders as equally evil, and social hysteria regarding sex offenders which tends to lead to the same attitude. This results, not only in in a complete ‘freezing-out’ of those convicted of sex offences from work placements, but also in preventing other types of work due to external factors such as inability to obtain insurance etc.

    The one distinction some may make is that those convicted of sex offences against minors are considered even worse. It makes no difference whether an offender, who may themselves have been a young adult, had a short sexual dalliance with a 15-year old shortly before it would have been legal, or whether they were a serial groomer of pre-adolescent children. They’re all treated as “paedophiles” (which is to misunderstand the meaning of the term).

    The courts and the sex-offenders register needs to recognise different levels of offence so that, perhaps, future potential employers and other organisations can recognise that, while some have indeed committed serious and despicable crimes, many others are normal people who made a mistake, just like a shoplifter or some other relatively minor offence.

  3. You are right been a sex offender is hard to get job I have been out ten years and at lowerest level ppu visit once a year no problems and being honest gets you no where

  4. I had a job at a recycling yard the management sacked me yesterday because some staff were actively searching web sites to see if their was any sex offenders working amongst them I worked for them with good work ethic no days off and on time I even flagged up ways to improve production witch was taken up I now have no job or self esteem again wish I were back inside at least my work as buddyand insider was recognised I have no desire at all to reoffend I have no freinds little family contact

    1. Hey davey I’m a 13 year old little boy. Who also wants a job but im scared people like you will touch me. you damm werido stay away from people. you’re disgusting.

      1. Get a grip mr
        People and you yourself may need a second chance
        You evil need to be worked out with a councillor

  5. Just further to my post iworked nearly 2years for this recycling firm ?????????it also amazes me that probation know which businesses might give you a job but they don’t tell you it’s like going for jobs with a brick in your gut no one helps

  6. Nice basic idea for an article but it’s just clickbait. Absolutely _no_ useful ideas for where to look for work, companies or charities we can apply to, _no_ mention of the types of work we can apply for or look for training in. Waste of my time but then I have plenty of it so what does it matter? Probation officer doesn’t even want me to apply for jobs without discussing it with him first so I can’t apply for casual labour. I don’t blame anyone for their attitudes it’s understandable, I hate myself for what I’ve done,why should anyone else feel any different? But I would like to be able to pay for decent food and a decent home, I just don’t see the point of it any more. The only reason I’ve not ended it all is because my mum would feel bad.

  7. Hello Jay. I am disappointed that you have given up and don’t give up on yourself my dear. I am a mum of a sex offender and I always tell my son not to imprison himself. Prison is not the wall. It is a mindset. You can prove yourself to the those ignorant people that you are not a monster. There are many jobs you can do without being made to feel unwanted. I am quite sure you can sue a company if they sack you because you a sex offender. That’s what I think. As long it’s an employee who doesn’t have vulnerable people around don’t see the reason why they should sack you

  8. i offended once in like 2021 during covid and i was sacked since then i never gave up worked in asda due to ban the box and was sacked i have done my flt for reach and counterbalance and did this year my cscs no one will evan touch me due to mine almost spent in march next year ive kept clean done everything ive evan tried jobs out of where i live and still nothing i had a agency yesterday search me up and was like spent or unspent we have a care to let our client know im at the point where not being here is the only way i messed up once and now has fucked my life up

  9. I am a registered sex offender been out of prison now for 1 year and I defo have no intension on ever harming any child our any other person to that point but I will say once you are labeled your no longer a part of sociaty no matter how much you’d like to be I have now accepted I am no longer accepted and I have took my self out of sociaty no doctors no hospitals no dwp claims no bank accounts no friends no family and I now live alone in woods where a monster like me deserves to be I have no desire to try re enter a world that will never accept me so all I wait for now is death to take me I expect no help from any people as its now something I no longer deserve our want

  10. My Grandson just got out of prison and he is at a half way house.
    He is so worried about going back to prison cause he just can’t find a job.
    He never had a driver’s license so we are working on getting him that. I can not believe the half way house hasn’t been any help for him at all. Any help for him would be so appreciated. He needs and wants a job so very bad.

    1. Ive been out after a ten year stretch and thought the same but i carried on looking got a job and have worked since no problems at all
      problem is probation and people who are supposed to help dont so better to just apply and tell the truth tou do not have to go into detail but as long as you have declared you have a record then your covered
      Once you are in a job people tend to take you on elsewhere if you are a good worker keep going all will be fine in the end its only your grandson who is stopping the progress dont worry all ex offenders want to go back to jail so natural thing to sya but once in work life gets better

  11. 2 years after my release, I have spent all that time searching for jobs, and continually being turned down takes its toll on one. I was a software engineer before, so I have an active mind but I suspect I’ll end up in a soul-destroying mind-numbing factory or warehouse job waiting till I die and that be the end of my sad miserable existence. Ostracized by society, treated like a monster but expected to act as a person. SO’s have the lowest reoffending rates, but are only presented with barriers to life and work. What was the point in being released if you’re still caged behind invisible bars. I want to work and contribute to society but having a SO is a life sentence no matter how long you get. Being able to work, reintegrate into society and being able to live a normal crime-free life is obviously proven to reduce reoffending and be the best outcome for everyone but instead, you’re forever on the outside looking in at the life you never have wondering what’s the point. If only companies and society were less judgmental wouldn’t the world be a slightly better place. Instead of being allowed to redeem myself and do something positive with my life and for the betterment of society through paying taxes working and contributing, I am left with no life, no hope, and no future wondering when will the punishment end. Punishment without the chance at redemption is just another word for torture. I made a mistake, when do I get a chance to atone or make amends for it? Sure I wasn’t sentenced to a life sentence but it seems like it in reality. My conviction never going to be considered spent, so work will always be hard-sought. Companies fear SO tough a lack of understanding and buying into the narrative the media like to portray. I keep hoping one day someone will give me a chance, that’s all i need just that one chance to prove myself and id be the best employee they ever had

  12. I done 10 years on the SOR, for a kiss, consensual but still criminal, from that day I said I would never do anything like that ever again, of which I haven’t, 16 days before I was due to finish on the SOR they charged me for a breach and technicality, things that the person standing next to me would not be arrested for, subsequently the life I spent 10 years building, and it is possible, but it takes time.
    They pressed the reset button, now I just need to find the mental power to start again, been out two weeks and had two people approach me for casual work, which is a huge start, and I have told them every part of my past. It sounds like on this part alone I am lucky, but I feel like I am on the police radar, I feel they want me behind bars

  13. How do you get a job as a sex offender? You don’t.

    And if you do you’ll soon be either fired or ostracized to the point of being forced to quit.

    The sooner the “experts,” researchers and writers publicly acknowledge this, the sooner things can change. Laws which force unemployment and homelessness are bad laws.

    Sex offenders in the United States primarily live off of spouses or family members and stay home alone all day every day.

    Sounds like a situation ripe for reoffending don’t you think?

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