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Former prisoners helped to re-integrate into society 

Reporters: Elaine Tsang, Katrina Lee, Vanessa Cheung
Editors: Natalie Cheng, Astina Ng

With the help of sympathetic employers and support organisations, some former offenders are proving there is life after prison.

It seems that more employers are now willing to hire past offenders. According to the Correctional Services Department (CSD), the success rate of re-integration programmes for offenders after release is 86.6% in 2010.

For young offenders, the CSD provides half-day compulsory technical, commercial and services training, while for adult offenders, the department provides pre-release vocational training courses on a full-time and part-time basis.

Some employers are also instructors who teach skills like cooking and dry-cleaning in these courses. Offenders who are trained during their imprisonment stand a higher chance of being employed by their instructors after their release.

Josephine Lam Suet-wah, who has employed former offenders for more than 20 years, is also a cleaning instructor at Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre. Lam says  some of her employees are bad-tempered and do not have a good working attitude. But despite some drawbacks in hiring ex-offenders, Lam and the rest of her sector are still willing to hire them because of the labour shortage in the industry. Past offenders are  regarded as a stable source of workers.

Some employers say they have made adaptations to the work environment after hiring former offenders, such as hiring more mature co-workers who may have more patience in teaching them. One said they had “Closed Circuit Television” (CCTV) to monitor their work.

Past offenders’ identities are kept confidential within the company but some ex-offenders may reveal their identities to colleagues after working for a period of time.  Some past offenders are satisfied with their relationships with colleagues. They are grateful that their colleagues have not discriminated against them and are tolerant of their mistakes..

However, one past offender told Varsity  that she faces discrimination in her workplace. She is not sure if her colleagues look down on her, but their stares still make her feel uncomfortable.

Most employers see hiring former offenders as a way to contributie to society, but they have their concerns when considering employees with some specific criminal records.  And many employers are reluctant to hire former offenders who have committed sexual crimes or have mental health problems.