Employers must be fair on Ex-Offenders: Cawaru

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Saturday, 16 November, 2019

The Yellow Ribbon program is a national campaign against continued punishment in hiring, which calls for employers to reconsider the box on job applications that requires applicant’s disclosure of criminal records.

This says the Permanent Secretary for Employment, Productivity and Industrial Relations, Osea Cawaru, is the gist of the matter when trying to get ex-offenders to function as normal citizens.

Mr Cawaru speaking to some inmates who are eligible for work release at the event.

“For us to ensure our own national security, we must try to ensure that they also have their own security and this refers to helping them get work so they get back to some normalcy and be contributing citizens of this country,’’ he added.

Mr Cawaru made the remark while opening the Fiji Corrections Service Employment Expo at the Waterfront Hotel, Lautoka on Friday, 15 December, 2019.

Mr Cawaru with some Ex-offenders who were also guests at the Expo in Lautoka’s Waterfront Hotel.

“Many employers refuse to hire ex-offenders, and systemic, collateral consequences restrict hundreds of ex-offenders’ legal rights, which essentially extends their punishment and inhibits their ability to function as normal citizens.”

Mr Cawaru added that for the economy to succeed, we needed to equip every Fijian to be effective in the national work force.

“But if hundreds of inmates who have been released over the years are not getting the support that they need, that fails them and fails the economy for all of us.

“These are individuals – with a whole range of strengths, weaknesses and, yes, contributions still to make. And there’s been a rightful focus through the Yellow Ribbon Campaign, the challenge for us all is, how do we reintegrate this growing population?

In attendance at the Expo were representatives from major companies and employment providers mostly from the Western Division.

Thirty inmates with special skills and training who were eligible for early work release were all on show at the Expo. Some were interviewed by the invited guests and have shown interest in taking on board some.

Raiwaqa Bakery founder Atela Yee said people need to open up their hearts and offer a second chance for ex-offenders.

“Everyone deserves a second chance in life,’’ says Yee.

Raiwaqa Bakery has been one frontline supporters of the Yellow Ribbon Campaign and have currently in their employment 4 former inmates.

“We are here at the Expo to look for more, because I am a big believer in giving people a fair chance, and those who are already with the Bakery have become very important members of our workforce and proven themselves very capable.

“I believe that everyone wants to achieve something in their life and all they need is an opportunity.”

Deputy Commissioner of Corrections Senior Superintendent Apimeleki Taukei said when society does not accept people back in their communities, life on the outside becomes like a second prison.

“We have to remove this stigma, and this is caused by the views society places on these people who are just human beings like you and me but who have some point in their life made some bad choices.”

“We thank people like Ms Atela Yee who are opening up her heart and doors to former inmates, and we hope other companies can do the same.”

SUPT Taukei said FCS is very thankful to those who have stepped up to assist in securing work for former inmates.

“Employment can make a difference between succeeding in life and returning to prison for some former offenders.”

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