Re: Really bad idea actually...
"But call centre work? It sounds ideal for con men who are by their very nature excellent salesmen - but not really for anyone else."
The nature of the work sounds like outbound sales calls. That has two sides - first the cons won't be handling personal data because they will not need to verify an identity (which initially seems positive), but the downside is that this is just outbound calls. How do you respond to (often unsolicited, or possibly solicited but at the wrong time) sales calls? If they are overseas I play around to waste their time and amuse myself, but if they sound UK based I just put the phone down. I would suggest that random phone calls to strangers who are rude or just put the phone down is not exactly a recipe for showing the world of employment in a good light to people who you want to rejoin the straight and narrow.
But the real problem this scheme has is that the released inmates still have the unspent conviction hanging round their neck like an albatross. If you go down for a sentence of more than two and a half years your conviction is NEVER spent, and even for less than six months the conviction is unspent for seven years. Whilst there may be a slight matter of a gap on the CV anyway, to have to reveal that they have unspent criminal convictions to prospective employers is a near certain means of ensuring they will not get any form of white collar employment, unless NACRO are the people recruiting.
The principle of spent/unspent convictions could have some relevance, but the vast scope and the punitive "rehabilitation period" (when the sentence is unspent) are modern day forms of branding. The curious thing is that the criminal injustice system seems immune to this - they won't lock up the various "one punch" killers for more than a couple of years, yet for those who go to prison for a few weeks for a *relatively* inocuous offence the system works to ensure they have very little chance of a decent mainstream job, ever (because after seven years of being unemployable or doing no-questions-asked manual labour you'd never get a mainstream salaried job).
This scheme intends to furnish released prisoners with potentially useful skills. But until it is far easier to re-integrate ex offenders into paid employment then they will continue to be kicked out of prison with no job, no prospects, possibly nowhere to live, and stand every chance of sliding back to the behaviours that got them into clink in the first place, despite a few months of telesales training.
Re-reading this it's all very bleeding heart and liberal. Personally I'd like the death penalty to be available for certain criminals, and I'd like inmates to have to break rocks for eighteen hour days (with their teeth), the unfortunate thing is that neither approach has been shown to be effective or cheap, and we need solutions that actually work.