Jobs for 2nd chances

2015-07-28 15:40

Employment is the key to prevent ex-convicts from committing crime again, the national institute for crime prevention and the reintegration of offenders (Nicro) believes.

The organisation, which offers assistance in rehabilitating convicts and reintegrating ex-offenders into their communities, has a new project that consists of developing a database of ex-offenders who are seeking employment.

The database lists all the ex-offenders currently looking for employment.

Interested employers can review the database online and submit a query, quoting the ex-offender’s reference number. Nicro will then put the prospective employer in touch with the ex-offender. It is up to the prospective employer to contact them and set up an appointment, explains Nicro spokesperson Jacques Sibomana.

It is vital for the community as a whole to offer support and play a key role in reintegrating ex-offenders, Sibomana explains.

“If ex-offenders are assisted by the community to reintegrate and support them through this difficult journey the community will be playing a role in reducing the likelihood of re-offending. Ex-offenders are faced with various challenges to reintegrate and one of the biggest challenges is supporting themselves,” he says.

“Sadly though, as an ex-offender one is faced with a criminal record that you carry. This limits the chance of finding employment; this leads many to go back to a life of crime to support themselves and their family. If we set up opportunities to employ ex-offenders we will most likely reduce re-offending.”

When a potential employer learns that someone has been to prison, many automatically turn the application down, Sibomana says.

“This behaviour contributes to many ex-offenders going back to a life of crime as a way of survival. The stigma they face from family members, the community and society as a whole does more damage – both to the individual and the community – than good,” he says.

One ex-offender, Bheki, has been looking for employment since his release from jail in 2010. He has been left dependent on his family for support.

He was sentenced for armed robbery and spent a decade incarcerated, using this time to study electrical engineering and change his life.

“I’m very stressed, because I’m not able to provide for my family. This has caused depression. I don’t want to go back to where I was and I don’t want to turn to crime. I’m not going to make the same mistake again,” he says.

Bheki believes every ex-offender should be given a second chance.

“A person can change. We all make mistakes and I’ve already paid the price for that. Some of us went into crime to make a living and got caught and some of us got the message and are rehabilitated. I have changed and deserve a second chance,” he insists.

The organisation currently has a list of individuals and companies who want to take on those individuals, but there is a need for more business involvement, Sibomana says.

“We are looking to work with different associations and business chambers to encourage more businesses to get involved,” he says.

“Currently we have about 80 ex-offenders registered on the list, but we do believe that once the project gets business support more ex-offenders will be able to register.”V

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