Give offenders a second chance
Ah Ho, 17, treasures his current job as a mechanic's apprentice. Learning air conditioner maintenance work, he earns HK$4,000 a month.
While this may be a meagre income for a full-time job, Ah Ho is grateful to his employer for giving him a second chance.
After serving his sentence for a mugging in April, Ah Ho couldn't find a job for five months.
'Once, I went to a company for a job interview. The receptionist asked me to fill in the application form first as her boss was on the phone,' he said.
'After she read the completed form - I had to include my criminal record - she told me she had made a mistake and her boss had gone out.'
Ah Ho's plight is one faced by many teenage offenders whose attempts to get their lives back on track are hampered by discrimination.
To help such ex-convicts, the Correctional Services Department and the Merchants Support for Rehabilitated Offenders Committee have launched a programme, 'One Job for One Person'. Its aim is to find employers for young people with a criminal past.
More than 30 local companies have joined the scheme, which was set up two years ago.
'Having served their time behind bars and taken part in correctional sessions in prisons, most young offenders regret their wrongdoings and are looking forward to a new start,' said William Chan Wing-lim, founding chairman of the committee.
'After they get out of jail, what they need the most is a job to help them lead a stable life. Otherwise, they might fall back on their old friends and commit a crime again. Rehabilitation programmes, like the one we have, help prevent offenders from relapsing.'
Ah Wai, 19, has also benefited from the scheme. He was given a five-month prison sentence after being convicted of assault in February. During his time in jail, Ah Wai worked hard to equip himself with different kinds of skills which would help him find a job when he got out.
But things didn't work out at first. Two months after coming out of prison, he still had no job.
'I attended several interviews in fast food restaurants. I have work experience in the field and the interviews often went well,' Ah Wai said.
'However, after [the employer] found out about my criminal record, they said they had enough staff. If they had enough people, why would they advertise vacancies on their shop windows?'
Thanks to the programme, Ah Wai is now working in a restaurant as a kitchen helper.
Recalling his delinquent past, he said he will mend his ways and work hard for his future.
'Since I've had some very bad experiences, I treasure what I have now,' Ah Wai said.
'I know my criminal record might remain a stumbling block in my career, but I'll try hard to impress my employers and make them realise that I'm no longer the unruly and reckless teenager I used to be.'