Of­fi­cials call to em­ploy ex-of­fend­ers

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Taihape - SAM KILMISTER

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.

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