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2022-11-19 at 15:45 #383152Nat QuinnKeymaster
Incarceration Nations Network (INN), in partnership with the Robbin Island Museum, has launched a campaign in South Africa calling for corporations, agencies and businesses to pledge their commitment to eliminate the requirement on job application forms for people to declare whether they have ever been convicted of a crime.
The campaign is called “ban the box” to support the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into society.
“Ex-convicts have a right to fair and equal assess to jobs. People that come out of prison lose opportunities right off the bat because there is legal and societal discrimination towards them, and this is the unjust box they’re put in,” said Incarceration Network Nations co-founder Dr Baz Dreisinger.
She also noted that countries worldwide, including South Africa, need to prioritise this issue because it promotes safety in communities. She said that, by being ostracised in the job market, ex-convicts often turn back to crime to support themselves – compromising the security of our communities.
“Large numbers of people are coming home from prison and are jobless, so it behoves us all in society to care about this issue,” she said.
Dreisinger explained that the high rate of re-offenders in South Africa shows that the system to keep citizens safe from crime is not working – saying that corrections need to be made to the system to facilitate a process that allows ex-convicts to become positive contributors to society.
She noted that research done in the US revealed that ex-convicts actually made better employees. The study found that they showed a higher level of commitment and loyalty to a business that hires them due to having experienced the loss of freedom.
Alongside INN’s initiative to eliminate the requirement on job application forms for people to declare whether they have ever been convicted of a crime, Dreisinger highlighted the organisation’s “prison to college pipeline” campaign in South Africa – called Ubuntu learning community.
This initiative is a collaboration between the Brandvlei Correctional Centre and Stellenbosch university that involves bringing university students into prison to learn alongside convicts so that these incarcerated individuals can gain the qualifications needed to enter the workforce when they’re released.
“The Ubuntu learning community not only expels stereotypes among university students as they go into prison and discover that these individuals behind bars are actually intelligent leaders, but it also offers criminals access to networks and educational opportunities designed for reintegration into society after prison,” said Dreisinger.
She added that the call to remove the need to declare whether a job applicant has ever been convicted of a crime during the application process is already being heard by many notable companies in the US and other countries.
“We are starting to see coalition building around this issue. Corporations such as Uber and Google are coming to the table saying we support criminal justice reform and a shift in hiring practices,” said Dreisinger.
She also noted that the organisation is seeing an increase in “fair-chance” hiring coalitions where businesses’ are signing a pledge to not discriminate against previously incarcerated individuals.
“So while this challenge is very steep, we are seeing a movement towards changing hiring practices to support criminal justice reform,” she said.
A push to change hiring practices for ex-convicts in South Africa (businesstech.co.za)
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