Take a (second) chance on me

A public consultation on a ‘Second Chance’ proposal, emphasising societal support for rehabilitation and reintegration of reformed ex-offenders.

“Gonna do my very best and it ain’t no lie
If you put me to the test, if you let me try.”

Chances are you recognise these ABBA lyrics. Although we’re not referring to chances taken in the love department, these words lend themselves surprisingly well to second chances in life.

Let’s put things in context. The government has just opened a public discussion on a ‘Second Chance’ proposal, emphasising societal support for rehabilitation and reintegration of reformed ex-offenders. The White Paper states that a conduct certificate should not be a barrier to securing proper employment. Although it is true that certain offenses are removed from the conduct record after several years, the fact remains that employers hesitate to hire individuals with tarnished records and, to date, have no visibility into whether the person has fully committed to their rehabilitation to truly start a new life.

The current challenges

Voluntary organisations working closely with prisoners and their families are aware of the challenges they face when doors are closed on them as they seek employment for individuals undergoing rehabilitation programs. In the preliminary consultation, it was clearly highlighted that the conduct certificate often creates significant difficulties for individuals who have served prison sentences to find employment, even in jobs that do not have particular sensitivities, such as delivery persons and guards performing certain tasks that often do not even involve property custody.

Main elements of the White Paper

The reform primarily aims to facilitate the reintegration of individuals who have demonstrated efforts towards rehabilitation during their incarceration. One of the pivotal elements introduced by this reform is the issuance of a supplementary certificate of good conduct. This certificate aims to provide a more nuanced representation of the individual’s conduct, including their participation in rehabilitation programmes and their behaviour while serving their sentence. Moreover, the reform proposes reducing the duration certain crimes are listed on a person’s criminal conduct record, thereby easing their path back into society.

Continuation of the certificate of conduct

Despite these changes, the reform does not propose the discontinuation of the certificate of conduct. It remains a required document, similar to practices in other countries, but will now be maintained in a more humane manner. This adjustment ensures that, while the essence of the certificate is preserved, it evolves to be more aligned with rehabilitative and reintegrative goals.

Legislative changes and specific amendments

Following a thorough consultation phase on the proposals, legislative reforms will be implemented to enhance the way the certificate of conduct is maintained. Notably, sentences for simple possession of drugs for personal use will no longer be registered on the certificate of conduct after the individual has served their time. This measure is in line with the government’s policy of rehabilitating individuals struggling with substance abuse and reducing harm, enabling them to reintegrate into society through strengthened rehabilitation programs.

Procedure for the supplementary certificate of good conduct

Individuals can request the supplementary certificate of conduct from a special board up to one month after completing their sentence. This certificate will detail the programmes the individual participated in during their sentence and provide an account of their behaviour, thereby serving two main purposes: incentivising individuals to engage in reform programmes during their sentence and to demonstrate their progress toward rehabilitation.

Validity of the supplementary certificate

The validity of the supplementary certificate is contingent on the individual’s continued adherence to the law. It is automatically revoked if the individual is found guilty of another crime, emphasising the ongoing responsibility of the individual to maintain their conduct.

Possibility of removing sentences from the certificate of conduct

The reform also allows individuals to request the removal of an offense from the certificate of conduct if it has been decriminalised and is no longer considered a criminal offense. This feature acknowledges the changes in law and societal norms over time, allowing individuals who were penalised under previous regulations to clear their records in accordance with current standards.

Crimes exempt from expungement

The reform is progressive yet cautious, stipulating that certain serious crimes will not be expunged from the criminal record, even with the introduction of new measures. These include:

– Crimes against humanity

– Recidivism in theft, fraud, and drug trafficking

– Crimes against government security

– Slander and perjury

The decision to permanently record these offenses underlines the severity with which they are viewed and ensures that the safety and security of the public are not compromised by the reintegration policies.

Impact on the penal code

It is important to clarify that this reform does not alter the Penal Code. The existing criminal laws will remain in effect, and the Penal Code will continue to be accessible to authorised entities for the necessary checks. This ensures that, while administrative practices concerning the rehabilitation of individuals may evolve, the foundational legal framework remains stable and intact.

Role of the Restorative Justice Board

A significant introduction in the White Paper is the proposal to establish a Restorative Justice Board. This board’s primary function will be to recommend procedural adjustments to public entities regarding the issuance of work licenses in relation to the supplementary certificate of conduct. The board will play a crucial role in ensuring that the reformed practices align with broader goals of restorative justice, particularly in easing the issuance of work licenses to rehabilitated individuals, thereby facilitating their reintegration into the workforce.

Public participation

The White Paper underscores the importance of public involvement in the reform process. The government is encouraging you to actively participate and contribute to the discussions and implementation of these reforms. This engagement is crucial for ensuring that the reforms are well-understood and effectively integrated into society.

To read the White Paper click here – the English version starts on the 23rd page.

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