On 6 December, the Westminster Outreach team co-hosted with the London South Bank University (LSBU) Criminology Society a panel discussion entitled ‘Is a Criminal Record a Life Sentence?’ exploring barriers that those with convictions face in the community.

The balanced panel was made up of people with and without convictions in order to make as many different views as possible heard. The event was attended by a mix of current students of Law or Criminology from both the University of Westminster and LSBU as well as academics, probation officers, prison staff, people with convictions and those working in prison reform and rehabilitation charities.

Criminology Senior Lecturer and Co-Leader of the Westminster British Convict Criminology ‘Making Links’ programme Dr Andreas Aresti and Westminster Outreach Officer Rosie Reynolds, who were both among the event’s speakers, particularly talked about the barriers those with convictions face in Higher Education.

Rosie Reynolds highlighted the support that the University of Westminster offers to applicants, the work the Westminster Outreach team currently does to engage with learners in prison and she also discussed what Higher Education institutions can do to address some of the issues in the future.

Talking about the event, Rosie said: “It was important for us to have people with convictions on the panel, it is only by listening to their experiences that we as Higher Education Institutions can understand what needs to be done to bring down barriers to education.”

Lively debates such as about the implications of disclosing or not disclosing a conviction at application stage were ensued and the discussion raised many questions as well as solutions for work that can be done to reduce barriers for ex-offenders to Higher Education.

Mark Kavanagh, Marketing Manager at the University of Westminster, said about the event: ‘’The event provided a range of perspectives and encouraged lively debate amongst the panel and audience. It was interesting to hear the views of those who have had first-hand experience of the Criminal Justice System.”

Kate Salmon, a Westminster Criminology and Sociology student, said: “I found this event incredibly thought provoking. The panel was very informed and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives on Banning the Box, especially from individuals who have first-hand experience of dealing with the label of ex-offender. It has helped inform me about the topic.”

Find out more about the Criminology BA Honours course offered at the University of Westminster.

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