Employers asked to give ex-offenders a chance

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Cape Town – Justice and Correctional Services Minister Michael Masutha has called on employers not to turn down job applications from ex-offenders based on their criminal records.

He said this gesture would go a long way to contribute to the successful reintegration of ex-offenders in communities.

The Minister said this when he fielded oral questions in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) when the Social Services Cluster Ministers appeared before Members of Parliament on Tuesday.

“…I should touch briefly on the issue of criminal records, which many ex-offenders have complained about as one of the barriers that makes it difficult for them to reintegrate.

“[I am making] a call to potential employers out there that the mere fact of a person having a criminal record ordinarily, unless there are expressed legal barriers to that effect, should not serve as a barrier for a person not to be employed.

“It all should depend on the nature of the offence and how the person has responded to rehabilitation and of course, the nature of the job that they seek to participate in,” said Minister Masutha.

ANC MP from Mpumalanga, Moses Mhlanga, had asked the Minister if the department has any strategies to ensure that ex-offenders or parolees are reintegrated into society, as well as the roles that other government departments and sectors of the economy can play to assist.

The Minister said the role of non-governmental organisations and corporations from other sectors has helped to increase the number of ex-offenders who have been integrated back into society.

“We should, however, point out that with the participation of a number of non-governmental organisations and corporations in some instances, we have been able to successfully integrate many ex-offenders and many, through empowering themselves through education and other means, have reached high levels of qualification and competency that enabled them to effectively play a meaningful role in society.”

Unlocking doors for inmates

Minister Masutha said the department has a range of programmes that are designed to achieve two main objectives: to address offending behaviour on the part of inmates and to empower them with the relevant skills to enable them to find it easier to reintegrate into society so they can make a meaningful contribution for their sake and for the benefit of society.

The Minister said the department will assess the impact of its interventions by looking at the extent to which those on parole or on community corrections comply with their parole conditions.

“I am happy to say that over the past three years, there has been a significant improvement in this regard.

“When we started, about 85% to 86% complied with parole conditions and currently we are talking in the region of 97% to 98% of compliance.

“One of the interventions that we have introduced is to ensure that firstly, victim-offender dialogue takes place in all cases, unless of course, the victim is not amenable and to ensure that there is an attempt to reconcile, where possible, the perpetrator and the victim to smooth reintegration.

“We also assess through risk assessment tools to determine the risk profile of an offender, such as looking at reports of psychologists or social workers, in order to make sense of what are the prospects, upon releasing an inmate, of them going back to their offending behaviour.

“These are some of the interventions that have enabled us to significantly [reduce] non-compliance with parole conditions.”

The Minister thanked all the departments and NGOs for partnering with Correctional Services to open up opportunities for offenders. He particularly thanked the Departments of Basic Education and Higher Education and Training, which help to facilitate access to education for offenders.

“… [Inmates] are able to leave with certificates that are recognised so that they are able to seek employment.” – SAnews.go.za

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