Employment and Reintegration

Guest post by Brandon Hay, Founder of the Black Daddies Club

“However, most former prisoners experience difficulty finding a job after release. During the time spent in prison, many lose work skills and are given little opportunity to gain useful work experience. Moreover, the availability of job training programs in prison has declined in recent years. Finding meaningful work as someone with a prison record is a challenging task”

“Many respondents had difficulty finding employment, and the majority (70 percent) felt that their criminal record had affected their job search.”

-Employment after Prison: A Longitudinal Study of Releases in Three States by Christy Visher, Sara Debus, Jennifer Yahner

The prison system is not about reform; the prison is more of a punitive measure versus a reformative process. I remember having a conversation with a staff who works in the Canadian criminal justice system saying that the “prisons are where people go to learn to be better criminals. They are networking with other criminals and they can learn new and intricate ways of committing crime. They can also learn about where they went wrong in the crime that caused them to get caught and try to improve upon it.” This person also made mentioned of the lack of engaging and relevant programs available to these prisoners, “It is not like the prisons have programs that give these inmates the tools for success when they get out of the prison.”

There are a high number of inmates who are illiterate or do not have the skill sets needed for the job market; so right away upon release, these individuals do not have the skills to compete for legal employment. Why this is important is that if one is not able to find a job legally coupled with the pressure of fatherhood and the ability to provide for your family especially if you have been incarcerated for a while, there tends to be an internal pressure to do what know you can do to generate income. Chances are those methods of making money are illegal, which leads the individual back into the prison system.

If you were able to find a job, there is high chance that you would be finding jobs that are minimum wage. There is a high chance this job is related to manufacturing or manual labor. The question of geography then comes into play, especially if the person who has been released from prison is now living in the in a neighbourhood improvement area (NIA). There is a high chance that there is no manufacturer or manual labour jobs in your community, so that means that you are commuting by public transit to jobs that could be on the other side of town. I have heard of some men living in Scarborough who got released from prison who could only find factory jobs in Brampton or Mississauga. This was a huge challenge because not only of the time it took to get to work, sometimes adding an additional three to four hours unto their day; they were also taking two different bus systems which had two separate costs to them. So what this meant is that these men were only getting paid enough to pay for the commute to and from work.

There is no work, family and personal time balance in this equation and those who try to make this process work end up having stressful family lives.

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