October 28, 2021

Ex-Convicts and Job Seeking

law

Abstract

Ex-convict is a person who has lawfully completed his term in prison. A person who is now ready to re-enter in the society. There is a demarcation between a prisoner and an ex-convict. Everybody made mistakes in their lives and ex-convicts those persons who have made mistakes and paid for them and now they are free and have the right to live like a normal person without being judged by their history. This article talks about the difficulties faced by an ex-convict in seeking a job. How they struggle to get back in the society and the way society treats them.

Keywords

Ex-convicts, Job seeking, Human Rights, Welfare State, Barriers, Reintegration, Reformation, Difficulties, Employment, Recidivism, Social Justice Department, Nervazhi.

Quotes

“Every moment is a fresh beginning.”
– T.S. Eliot

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Confucius

Introduction

Imprisonment is one of the most common methods of punishment adopted by almost in all countries to punish for the offence. In ancient times, the retributive punishment was followed which means an eye for an eye, or a tooth for a tooth. But with time as the society has been changed to the welfare society so as the theories of punishment. Now, the theory of punishment which is being followed in almost all over the world is Reformative Theory. Reformative theory generally means that every person shall be given a second chance. Nobody is born as a criminal. The criminal activity of a person is the reaction of several circumstances in a person’s life. So an employment can be the spark of hope that changes the path for a homeless person and his family. Many homeless people specially ex-convicts, who are accustomed to living on the street, mostly had altercations with the law. They face struggle to secure employment because they are unable to pass an employer’s criminal background search. Ex-convicts do face a unique set of challenges but with proper support and guidance from the government these challenges can lead to competitive employment success. Several companies are now hiring ex-offenders for security and other purpose due to which they are gaining employment after serving their sentence. Its employers of a big firm who are willing to take a risk. Although it can be difficult as well as scary for employers to hire an ex-convicts because companies have rules and policies which restrict the employment of individuals with specific criminal backgrounds. However, this does not mean that individuals with a criminal background will not be able to find employment but it makes it harder and may take more time and incentives to be successful in the job market.

Relevant Chapters and Headings

Human Rights

“Human rights are those minimal rights, which every individual must have against the State, or other public authority, by his being a ‘member of human family’ irrespective of any consideration”[1]. These rights are inalienable and the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. Ex-convicts are also a person so they have all the basic rights.

Barriers to Societal Re-Entry

When a prisoner after completing his term re-enter in the society he faced a lot of difficulties in connecting with the society, people treat him as if he is still a criminal and has no right to live in the society.

There is a complex mix of social, economic and personal factors which led the barriers for the ex-convicts from reintegration to the society.

  • Employment

Lack of employment opportunities is one of the biggest barriers. Employers are scared in hiring ex-convicts which eventually led them into earning money illegally and into going back from where they came.

  • Housing issues

Another problem faced by the ex-convicts is finding a place to live. Nobody wants to live around a person who has been convicted for a crime. Most landlords don’t want to rent their houses to them which one again led these ex-convicts into ending up finding something temporary.

The mental health of an ex-convict is also a barrier which is stopping him form re-entering in the society.

Recidivism

Recidivism is a term used when the crime is committed repeatedly. There are people who after getting punished for their crime commits the same or other crime again, these people are known as a recidivist. 

The main cause of recidivism is:

  1. Education

The lack of education leads to many problems in the society in which unemployment is the foremost. When there is not enough education and skills on the part of a person, he fails to compete and many times he indulges himself into unlawful things and he ultimately leads to recidivism.

  • Poverty

Poverty is the prime cause for lack of education which ultimately results in unemployment and then into criminal activity. Most of the criminals belong to poor families and after coming back in the society when again they are not able to find a job, they become recidivist because they are left with no option.

  • Insanity

Some offenders are mentally deprived and due to that they don’t understands the nature and gravity of the crime. The mental depravity results into inadequacy of correctional measures in treatment and led into recidivism.

How the Government Help Them Re-Adapt in the Society?

In January 2019 Telangana government with the central prison of Telangana conducted a job fair for ex-convicts where almost 200 ex-convicts were offered jobs.

IG (Jails) A. Narasimha, addressing the ex-prisoners at the job mela, said it was a great opportunity for them to redeem themselves and prove useful to their families and society.  “There are misconceptions that a former prisoner is worthless and will not get any job. Now the State government has come up with special initiatives to help them and it is time for them to prove themselves,” he pointed out.

Mr Narasimha said this was the third job mela to be held in a jail in the State and henceforth, special job melas would be conducted at jails every three months to help released prisoners for good conduct.

Speaking at the job mela, city police commissioner V. Ravinder said, “The department will keep a watch on you and how you conduct yourself in your new role. If you right yourself, you will get many more chances.”

District Legal Services Authority secretary Annie Rose Christian congratulated the ex-convicts who got placement orders. 

“It is a rare opportunity and now it is time to prove yourself to the society,” she said[2].

The Social Justice Department’s (SJD) has initiated an ambitious programme, ‘Nervazhi’, in November 2017 based on the Probation of Offender’s Act, 1958 which is solely meant for the prisoners and helps them in getting back in the society. It has helped many prisoners in the state of Kerala. Almost 323 prisoners have been benefited by this scheme until November 2019. In this scheme, prisoners who have good conduct in jail has been picked and they are provided with vocational training and education and assists them in earning a livelihood.[3]

Companies Who Hire Ex-Convicts

It is not easy for an ex-convict to find a job and in the time where there are lots of unemployed persons in the country. When a person is in jail, for a long term he misses out a large part of his life where he could have learned so many other skills and he majorly misses the growth of the society which certainly affects the rate of his employment. Not all the companies are ready to hire an ex-convict. But there are certain companies from all over the world who hire ex-convicts like, McDonald’s, Delta Airlines, Dell Corporation, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Pepsi, etc.

Ex-convicts can also work in customer services, food services, automotive repair, warehousing, retail operations. Where the skills of the ex-prisoners will be useful, and they will not face much problems.

Pros and Cons of Hiring Ex-Convicts

There are always two sides of everything. There are advantages and disadvantages of hiring an ex-convict:

  PROS

• They have served a long time in jail far away from their family and they also have missed out on various things and as now they have served their full sentence and they are free. They want to change their lives and want a new start.

• They now strictly follow the norms and ethics of the society as well as the company or their job because they are afraid of going back to prison.

• They are loyal to the people and their job.

• They are motivated.

• They are more reliable than conventional employees. They don’t have many demands. They only demand for acceptance in the society. 

CONS

➢Not all the prisoners after completing their sentence do change. Some people become worse because of the environment of jail.

➢They can be harmful for the society and the job and other employees.

➢ Because of the environment inside the jail, their behaviour is more degraded.

➢ Employees will not be supportive in hiring an ex-convict.

➢Because the employees will not be supportive there will always be discrimination between the employees.

➢Some of the ex-convicts could be mentally weak and are not prepared for the present society.

➢They can be dishonest and there are high chances of repeating their previous actions.

➢ Because of their long sentence, they are not updated and do not possess the skills which is the need of the hour.  Not all the jobs are for everyone.  Like one cannot offer a job of working in a bank to a person who was convicted for stealing. Working in places that sell alcohol for fellows connected to alcohol-related crimes.

Can Reformation of Ex-Convicts Be Possible?

Reformative theory of punishment gives second chance to every offender to change his life. There are certain examples where the offender has been reformed and now are helping in the reformation of others.

  1. Reni George[4]

Reni George is an ex-convict who was convicted for theft and murder of an old couple who was his close relatives. He was a drug addict which led him into this crime. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. In his earlier years of jail, he faced a lot of problems and he was indulged into drug trafficking but later on, he turned to Christianity and became an evangelist. On 1995, after completing 15 years of jail term he was finally released. And after that, he founded Reni’s Children, a children’s home for children of convicts who are still serving their sentence in jail.

  • Back in the Ring [5]

Back in the Ring is a group of Norwegian ex-convicts who were drug addicts are now turned into yoga devotees, they have set up a base in Mumbai to construct public toilets for women.

Conclusion

No crime can be stopped in the name of punishment if such a concept would have existed then there would have been no recidivism. The State can’t, by law or generally denies any individual of the privilege to live with essential human pride. Employment issues among ex-offenders need to be considered seriously. Employers need to give a second chance to ex-offenders after their release and accept them as a team to avoid them from relapse. If properly selected, these ex-offenders will prove to be just as reliable as recruits who come from elsewhere. On the other hand, the government needs to provide effective and comprehensive employment training and programs to ensure that ex-offenders are well-equipped with necessary skills and knowledge to uplift their productivity. Even though they will be potentially employed in low wage economic sectors such as construction, plantation, manufacturing, retail trade, and food services, these jobs could support them to earn their living and remain abstinence from abusing drugs or committing crime. Besides that, society including family and peers also need to play their role in combating this issue. They need to give social and moral support to the ex-offenders to restore ex-offender’s self-esteem and sense of belongings. The support they received from people eventually could be a motivating force and bounce positive impact to their employment and employability.


[1]     thelawbrigade.com/public-international-law/prisoners-right-evolving-jurisprudence/

[2]https://www.thehansindia.com › posts › index › Telangana › 2019-01-29 › …

[3]https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/kerala/2020/feb/17/ex-convicts-get-new-shot-at-life-through-nervazhi-in-kerala-2104374.html

[4]https://www.firstpost.com › India › inside-Indian-jails-reformed-ex…

[5]https://www.indiatimes.com/news/india/in-mumbai-ex-convicts-and-drug-addicts-from-norway-build-toilet-for-women-273276.html

Author- Sundram Joshi, Symbiosis Law School

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