Work after prison

Unemployment in Europe is quickly becoming a huge problem, which affects young people the most. For those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds the situation is even worse. Vincent was one of them.

While serving a prison sentence, Vincent did trainings and prepared for work. Upon his release, Vincent, full of high hopes, applied for a job with a company. All was going well until he was asked to present his criminal records. The prospect of getting a job diminished and a year later Vincent was convicted again for the same crime.

People who serve a prison sentence face a series of problems upon terminating their sentences. For an exinmate life can be difficult. Some of them are rejected by their families, friends and spouses. Most of them are homeless, have no skills, education, nor qualification and are presented with a cluster of social problems and in some cases drugs. These factors make them more likely to be living a life of idleness and resort to crime as their means of living. Finding work is the hardest task of all and rarely do people coming out of prison have a line up of jobs, the crucial moment being when they are asked to reveal their criminal record.

Regarding the issue of employing exoffenders, there are those who think that ex-offenders should be employed regardless of their crime, but there are others who make restrictions, especially where crimes involve violence, children and in the case of former drug addicts working in a medical setting. Studies in criminology indicate that unemployment is included in the multitude of factors which contribute to juvenile delinquency and crime. There is a relationship between successful employment and the avoidance of crime. Those who came out of prison and could not get a proper job resorted back to crime and within a short period of time found themselves back in prison.

The Report on social reintegration of prisoners, presented in 2006 by the Council of Europe in the Parliamentary Assembly, refers to this situation. The following subsections are found under ‘Post-prison Assistance’: •Upon release, prisoners often have some difficult obstacles to overcome. In the days leading up to their release, they are often beset by doubts and become increasingly agitated.

•Adjusting to their newfound freedom is particularly difficult for individuals with fragile personalities and those who have served long sentences. After years in custody, they can find it hard to take initiatives and some have problems of identity and orientation in their new living space.

•Psychological follow-up can be highly beneficial in such cases.

•Generally speaking, however, this kind of support is virtually nonexistent.

•In some cases, the return to work may mean exercising a self-employed activity or setting up a small family or community business. This also increases their independence and allows the development of services that are socially or economically useful at local level.

•It is therefore important to support the development of this type of enterprise by providing information of a legal and practical nature and some management training and facilitating access to credit, in the form of micro-credit schemes, for example.

•Firms should also be encouraged and helped to offer quality jobs, through special subsidies. The measures could include reimbursing the cost of creating new jobs, and providing appropriate technical and financial assistance.

•Returning to stable employment is one of the keys to preventing repeat offences. Measures must therefore be taken to adjust sentences and to provide prison staff with training, particularly staff working with young offenders.

In the case of young offenders, it is essential to take action immediately after offences are committed and adopt an active approach in terms of support, guidance, reintegration, education, employment and supervision.

Helping Ex-Offenders find work

Preparations for getting a job should start well ahead of the inmate’s release, and programs such as prison work allow people to work in the community even though they are under institution control. This system helps inmates to prepare for their release in the community, whereby the inmates are able to earn a salary, pay taxes and contribute to their families.

Keeping a job will not only help to instill trust and new hope in inmates but stabilize a good relationship with employers. Employers should be encouraged to employ more exinmates, by being given grants by the State and support by agencies which work with ex-inmates. Investing in programs which help offenders integrate in the community and find work will help them to be selfsufficient and become tax-paying members of society.

This not only benefits the local economy but also public safety. The more ex-offenders get opportunities to work and become productive, the more society will benefit. If not, ex-offenders will all too easily find their way back to prison.

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