A run was a manual worker in a warehouse when he was sentenced to four years jail for fraud. Now in his mid twenties, the former prisoner is working as an employment, training and education adviser helping young people with substance misuse problems find work. He says it was the opportunity to do an NVQ while serving his sentence that turned his life around.
"If it wasn't for the project I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now," he says. "I'm working, my employers are happy with me and I'm helping people in the process. It was a big chunk of time that I spent in prison but I know I have done something positive with my life."
Despite evidence that getting a job is the best way to avoid re- offending, research by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit shows that ex-offenders are 13 times more likely to be unemployed than other people.
The difficulties ex-offenders face in finding work are complex. Some do not have the qualifications or skills needed to gain employment and, if they have spent some time in prison, will not have recent work experience. Some might be homeless, have drug or alcohol dependency issues, debt or health problems.
However, another major factor which has become increasingly recognised in the past few years is employer prejudice. Many ex- offenders avoid applying for jobs for fear of being rejected because of their criminal record - and in many cases their fears are well- founded. Surveys of employers have repeatedly shown a reluctance to recruit offenders. Violent or sexual offences and those against property are considered the most serious.
But now a recruitment agency, Talent, is hoping to address such misconceptions by taking a group of company managers and human resources professionals into Brixton Prison as part of a conference intended to promote diversity in recruitment.
In a visit that has been arranged jointly with the St Giles Trust - which helps offenders build successful lives when they leave prison - delegates will meet serving prisoners who, like Arun, have taken advantage of the charity's training programme, which allows them to gain an NVQ Level 3 in advice and guidance, equivalent to two A-levels. Those on the scheme work within the jail as advisers to their fellow prisoners, helping them get the support they need to overcome drug or alcohol problems and find a home, relevant training and employment when they leave prison.
Mukesh Oza, head of marketing at Talent, says the idea of the visit is to get businesses to think differently about employing people with criminal records. "We hope the visit will give them a greater insight into what recruiting ex-offenders can mean - highlighting the pitfalls and successes. We want to encourage employers not to just look at the label but to look at what people are capable of and what they have to offer. …