People with criminal records are reliable workers who deserve support and opportunities to connect with employment, Jobs Australia’s Conversations Shaping Tomorrow webinar series has heard from VACRO.

VACRO CEO Marius Smith presented on the topic of supporting job-seekers with criminal records at the series’ sold-out second session on 22 October 2020. Read a shortened version of his speech.

Key points:
  • VACRO CEO Marius Smith presented on the topic of employment for people with criminal records at a Jobs Australia webinar
  • Just 22% of people expect to leave prison to a job, and being unemployed makes it even less likely a person can secure employment in the future
  • But a state-wide employment program could benefit both people in prison and prospective employers

Mr Smith said having a job provides a person with stability and hope, which can reduce their risk of re-offending.

“When a person with a criminal background secures a job, they can afford a place to live, they can provide for their children, and they can deal with other issues they might face, including mental health conditions, addiction, and lack of community connection,” he said.

“And when such a person has the opportunity to lead a better life, their likelihood of offending reduces. This is important for both the individual and society as a whole.”

He presented on VACRO’s work supporting people on community corrections orders through our social enterprises, Second Chance Coffee and Second Chance Cycles, and addressed the bigger challenge of connecting people leaving prison with employment opportunities —which VACRO aims to address with an ambitious new employment program.

Approximately 1000 people leave Victorian prisons each month. The Health of Australia’s Prisoners survey reports just 22 per cent of them will leave prison to employment.

Mr Smith said being unemployed for a year nearly halves a person’s chances of ever working again, which illustrated the urgency of connecting prison leavers with employment options while still incarcerated.

In 2021, VACRO will launch a new employment program called Second Chance Jobs, which connects people leaving prison with a ‘job at the gate’. The program will work with people in the year before their release, connect them to a supportive and willing employer, and walk alongside them for a year post-release.

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