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Do you believe in giving people second chances? If so, would you be willing to put that belief into practice?

British criminologist Kathy Curran decided to practise what she preaches by hiring an ex-convict with a long list of past offences to work in her home.

According to The Independent, Curran, who specializes in rehabilitating repeat offenders, initially hired Brian (the newspaper changed his name to protect his identity) to paint her house eight years ago. Over time, Brian began looking after her children and doing odd jobs around the house, and he has even gone on holiday with Curran and her husband.

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Brian, 50, grew up surrounded by poverty and crime, The Independent reports. He had been a career criminal, having commit offences including shoplifting, fraud, drug dealing and armed robbery.

Working for Curran's family has changed his perspective. "It was a revelation to me. They showed me a way to live I'd never seen before," he told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, Curran has shown that people can change if given a chance. "You can't just leave people when you've started them on a difficult path. You have to take the time to trust, encourage and nurture them," she said.

Earlier this year, Statistics Canada had reported that the number of crimes in Canada had dropped to the lowest level since 1972, which Public Safety Minister Vic Toews indicated was evidence that the Conservatives' "tough on crime" agenda was working.

Yet many individuals thrive when given the opportunity to get out of crime. As The Globe's Robert Matas reported this fall, efforts to provide housing and drug treatment to chronic offenders has helped drive down crime rates in Vancouver.

Emily Grant, who was formerly homeless and raising money to buy drugs any way she could, explained how simply having a roof over her head has changed her life. (She received an apartment through the At Home/Chez Soi national mental health and homelessness project.) "Being inside makes a big difference. … When you are living on the street, it is so depressing. You want to be constantly high to get away from the horribleness of your reality," she said. "But when you are in a home, it is so much easier to cut your drug use down."

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