We work across public authorities and private companies.
The former sentenced
In Denmark, there are thousands of people who would like to get work or training but who lack the necessary support to carry out their dreams or are prevented from finding work or training because of their criminal past.
These people may be well educated or uneducated, skilled or unskilled, men or women, Danes or foreigners. The persons whom High:five has helped have very different stories. Some have a single stain on their criminal record for once having stolen a pack of gum while others have strayed a couple of times. But they all share a will to gain a normal life with work or training, and they all need a helping hand to get on with their lives.
Any society where illegal and unwanted actions have no consequences may descend into anarchy.
The Danish penal system is designed so that everyone is liable to the same punishment for the same offense. Seen from the side of the system, this is probably “fair”, but to treat all persons equally, you have to treat them differently because all persons are different.
In High:five’s experience, two people receiving the same sentence will react very differently to imprisonment for instance. One may see it as a sort of holiday, and opportunity to spend time with friends and peers, whereas the other may see it as traumatising and psychologically damaging and may be scarred for life. One learned nothing – the other was ruined.
“A suitable punishment” must therefore – taking into account the offense, the victim and the general sense of justice – depend on each individual offender, but this requires a clarification of the background, current situation, mental state and motive of the offender before an appropriate sentence can be determined.
The criminal records
It is easy to understand why the bank robber should not work as a bank cashier, but why can’t the graffiti painter? It is up to the Danish Parliament whether criminal records should be kept at all, what they should include and for how long.
The criminal records are used often – but they are also abused often
It is worth keeping in mind that the young people with stains on their criminal record are only those who were caught and that there a lots of people who really ought to have a stained record. And keep in mind too that the criminal record states what a person has done, not what he or she is going to do.
The stain on the record indicates a sentence served or penalty paid, and unreasonable exclusion would constitute additional punishment. A stained criminal record does not say anything about whether a person has a criminal mindset – and nor does a clean one for that matter.
Many employers ask applicants to enclose a criminal record along with the job application, which may be wise as long as the employers have decided why they want to see it and take the time to actually read what it says.
However, many employers ask for the criminal record without contemplating what criminal histories are unacceptable for the job in question.
Furthermore, High:five has noticed that employers often do not understand many of the articles listed on the criminal records and cannot be bothered to find out what they entail, which means that applicants are often turned away needlessly.
Businesses thus help deprive the applicant of the opportunity to gain an ordinary working life and simultaneously saddle him or her with the additional punishment of permanent unemployment.
It is also worth keeping in mind that the stains on a criminal record show what a person has done, not what he or she is going to do.
The stain on the record indicates a sentence served or penalty paid, and unreasonable exclusion would constitute additional punishment.