Christine Crawford, one of Corrections’ eight Offender Recruitment Consultants (ORC), is on a mission to help offenders get into employment.

For the past year Christine has been engaging with Otago employers and getting them to look beyond a person’s conviction and give them a second chance.

“The employment coordinator role has been instrumental in supporting offenders into sustainable employment,” says District Manager Raymond Clark. “By working with Christine, employers are confident they have a proper understanding of the candidate’s criminal past in the context of their rehabilitation, skills and willingness to work.”

Corrections’ ORC pilot started in October 2016 and has already exceeded targets for assisting offenders into sustainable employment.

In the year since it began, Christine has placed more than 130 people into employment in her area which covers Timaru to South Otago. She has also assisted people released from Otago Corrections Facility to connect with opportunities around the country.

Otago employers are increasingly embracing working with offenders and have been open to meeting candidates introduced by Corrections’ employment teams. Employers have found them to be loyal, hardworking and a good fit in the team.

“Employers have been impressed with the training provided at OCF,” Christine says. “I am always getting calls from employers impressed with the loyalty, work ethic, willingness to learn and enthusiasm of the people we are placing.”

Christine’s role includes assisting people who have been released from prison, on community sentences and those who have returned from Australia with their preparation to employment. She helps them create a CV, develop interview skills and provides assistance to help them find work.

“The vast majority of people we work with are keen to find a job,” says Christine. “They generally have excellent attitudes. I always reference check them and often they have a good record of working hard and just need someone to connect them with an opportunity.

“Some have skills and qualifications learnt on a prison industry course and it’s great when they can use these skills in a related workplace.”

Research shows strong links between employment and people maintaining a crime free life. With a focus on working prisons, large numbers of offenders are leaving prison with new found education and employable skills, qualifications and work aptitudes.

Christine tries to find the right match and she has placed people into roles in construction, engineering, cleaning, production and forestry industries.

Corrections offers employers support through subsidies arranged with Work and Income. Funding is also available for such things as tools, training and licences for people who have been released from prison and returning offenders.

“We keep in touch with the employer and the employee throughout the start of the job,” says Christine. “Often people start with a ‘stepping stone’ job, then move on to better opportunities.

“We’re always keen to speak with employers who are willing to offer a second chance that turns potential into real change,” she says.  “Giving people a chance at employment makes a difference for everyone.”

Assisting offenders to find Employment: success story

An Otago offender returning from Australia was relocated to Otago after serving a sentence of imprisonment in Australia.  He had never previously lived in Dunedin.  His Probation Officer supported him with finding stable accommodation and engaged the Southern Region Employment Team to assist the offender with finding employment.

The Probation Officer also supported him to get all his NZ driver licences which made him very marketable as a HT Driver.  He was has found employment with a transport company.

Offender capitalises on his reference from RtW

A man released from prison after almost a decade had a very good reference from his Release to Work employer at a timber yard. The ORC contacted a local Dunedin employer who offered the man full time employment after a successful interview.

To help with his transition to employment, Christine arranged transport for his first few weeks until he was settled. The job started as a casual position. After he proved himself a reliable hardworking worker, he was made permanent member of the team.