Victoria joins hands with businesses to employ former prisoners

Initiative aims to reduce the risk of former convicts committing new crimes

Victoria joins hands with businesses to employ former prisoners

The Victoria government is pairing up with private businesses in a new initiative to help prisoners get employed once they are released from prison.

"By working in partnership with private businesses we've created opportunities to improve community safety by supporting prisoners to get employment and get their lives back on track once they are released," said Corrections Minister Natalie Hutchins in a statement.

The initiative, dubbed as the Post-Release Employment Opportunities programme, enjoins a number of textile and food wholesaling businesses.

They are expected to employ up to 225 individuals when they leave prison and return to the community over the next two years.

These prisoners, however, would have already received vocational training and education while inside Victorian prisons, according to the government, with knowledge on warehousing, food processing, general maintenance and textile work like making prison tracksuits and mattresses.

The government said the initiative is supported by the investment in the Victorian Budget 2022-23 for two employment hubs at the Marngoneet Correctional Centre and Loddon Prison.

The state's Prison Industries Programme has already helped more than 1,400 prisoners from 13 public prisons in 65 distinct industries. In 2020-21, a turnover of $38 million was achieved, with prisoners receiving vital skills to re-enter the workforce.

Hutchins underscored that the project also aims to steer away former prisoners from committing crimes and push them to have better lives.

"A job provides income, independence and the opportunity to be a contributing member of the community – all of which are significant factors in reducing someone's risk of reoffending and improving their life," she said.

Read more: Victoria cracks down on LGBTQ hate crime at work

Criminal records during hiring

It may be natural for employers to hire individuals who have records free from criminal acts or convictions - PCC Lawyers solicitor Jacob Reddie, however, warned employers that they risk violating anti-discrimination legislation if they reject an applicant based on their criminal record.

Unless, of course, the said criminal record is relevant to their ability to perform the duties necessitated by the role.

"This will depend on the nature of the job, what sort of criminal offence was committed and will be determined on a case-by-case basis," said Reddie in a previous commentary.

"At the federal level, people who feel they have been discriminated against because of their criminal record can apply to the Australian Human Rights Commission," he added.

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