Give a second chance!
The general unwillingness among members of the private sector to employ ex-offenders, is in part one of the reasons those persons end up back in prison.
That’s according to Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs, Adriel Brathwaite. He made the point as he has expressed concern about recidivism in this country, contending that measures have to be put in place to reduce the rate. Speaking in the House of Assembly yesterday morning as he piloted the Criminal Records (Rehabilitation of Offenders) Amendment Bill, Brathwaite stated that in addition to not being able to find suitable employment, there are various other issues confronting ex-offenders, that are contributing factors in their going back to a life of crime, including the inability to find housing, drug addiction and gang activity.
In respect of employment, he referred to a 2015 study conducted by the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit within the Office of the Attorney General to re-examine the causes of recidivism. That study entitled the ‘Barriers to Reintegration’, he said, looked at what has been causing young people not to resettle, and it revealed that 84 percent of local employers said they would not hire someone who had a criminal record, while 45 per cent said they required a Police Certificate of Character as a prerequisite for employment.
“Even the smallest construction site nowadays seems to be asking a worker, as a prerequisite for employment, for a Police Certificate of Character and once that Certificate of Character demonstrates that the individual was incarcerated the general thing is to reject that individual for employment,” he said.
Recognising that one of the barriers to employment was their period of incarceration, he said it decided that his ministry would examine the periods required for the expungement of criminal records with the view of reducing the time. This move, he said, would give ex-offenders who have been reformed, a better chance at securing gainful employment and staying out of trouble.
Attorney General Brathwaite went on to say that while recidivism in Barbados is not as bad as other jurisdictions, we should not take comfort in that, as it is still a problem that has to be addressed. His comments came as he reiterated the need for businesspersons and the wider public to offer assistance to ex-offenders as a means of helping them to stay on the right side of the law. To that end, he said he has enlisted the help of the Barbados Government Information Service to help sensitise ex-offenders of the ability to have their records expunged and to sensitise more employers of the importance of offering more second chance opportunities to such individuals.
“We need as a country to take ownership of this issue. I am one all for second chances and many of us in this society if we weren’t given a second chance would not be where we are today. I live by that creed of the importance of giving these persons second chances,” he stated. (JRT)