Officials call to employ ex-offenders
Ex-offenders can be a huge source of untapped and work-ready talent, particularly in industries short of skilled labour, officials say.
A criminal record isn’t traditionally the kind of experience bosses look for when hiring, but the Ministry of Social Development’s new regional director Justin Wilson says hiring past law breakers may help former prisoners see the light.
Since a three-year trial started in October last year, 14 former Manawatu¯ prisoners have entered the region’s workforce. Nationwide, about 55 people have benefited.
The national prison population is at its highest ever, with more than 10,000 inmates. The trial aims to give ex-offenders the education, training, and housing to become employable.
Seven Manawatu¯ businesses are giving former prisoners a second chance, but Wilson is calling for others to join the queue.
His plea follows an agreement between the Corrections and collection service Waste Management in June that provides jobs to offenders who were still in prison, but allowed to go out during the day and work.
Waste Management had 1500 employees around New Zealand and about 50 vacancies.
Wilson said such partnerships were providing employers with motivated and skilled workers for a wide range of jobs.
Having stable employment played a huge role in reducing the likelihood of reoffending once someone left prison, he said.
The ministry trial involves staff meeting with prisoners 10 weeks before their release. They stick with the offender for 52 weeks after being released.
In Manawatu¯ , ex-offenders are now working in several industries, including building, joinery, warehousing and civil construction, Wilson said.
He challenged businesses to see the person, not the conviction.
‘‘The key is changing perceptions and attitudes. Life doesn’t always go according to plan and sometimes we need help to get ourselves back on track.
‘‘Helping an ex-offender get a job and stay in that job contributes to a more stable community and sends an incredibly positive message.’’
The biggest benefit was to young people in the family who now had a role model likely to help them make better life choices, Wilson said.
This was the case for Whangarei man Fabian Flavell, who started a business after receiving help to find work.
A careers adviser suggested he work as a cabin maker, and he proved so successful that in June he registered his own building company. He now has six employees.
Flavell, now 25, was 17 years old and on the cusp of a promising rugby league career, when it all fell apart.
He was selected for the New Zealand Ma¯ ori under-18s team, had completed intensive training in Taupo¯ and was set to pursue an NRL career in Melbourne.
Before he left he got into drugs and ended up in jail, charged with violent assault. He never made that flight to Melbourne.
Flavell struggled to find full-time employment when he left prison in 2012.
But it was the birth of his daughter five years ago that ignited the desire to turn his life around.