Job fair in prison offers a path to going straight

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 August, 2011, 12:00am


Inmates close to release attended interviews yesterday at the city's first prison job fair.

Any offender due to be freed within three months is eligible for the scheme and try to line up work for when they re-enter society.

The first session was held at Pik Uk Prison, Sai Kung, when 23 inmates met job recruiters and employers in advertising, retailing, food and beverage, transportation and mechanical engineering.

It will eventually cover 21 prisons and involve about 190 prisoners and 26 employers offering up to 243 jobs.

One of the Pik Uk prisoners who took part, Ah Cheong, 44, who declined to give his full name, is close to completing a two-year sentence.

He said: 'Here I get to meet and talk to different people, apart from inmates and officers.

'I can be talkative as [employers] all know my criminal background. [The job fair] eliminates possible embarrassment I may have in the future when I meet recruiters who may ask me about my criminal record.'

He said the employment choices were limited but he still welcomed the opportunities the job fair offered.

The fair is jointly organised by the Correctional Services Department and the Merchants Support for Rehabilitated Offenders Committee.

Job interviews with the employers through video-conferencing are also available for 11 women inmates from the prison at Lo Wu.

Most of the bosses are offering to hire inmates for the first time.

Chun Man-tsun, who owns an electronics appliance store in Sham Shui Po, is the exception.

He has been hiring rehabilitated offenders for two decades and has openings for three salesmen.

'For most ex-prisoners, you don't have to worry about their abilities at all,' he said. 'They do not have to be very clever. I am only looking for people who have an ambition to strive.'

At the fair, monthly salaries range from HK$6,800 to HK$14,000. The highest pay is for a driver with five years' working experience. Over 90 per cent require only Form Five education or below. Half of the jobs do not require any work experience.

The Correctional Services Department said if inmates entered the job market immediately after being released it would help to reduce crime.

'We hope to give them opportunities to contribute to society through having a legitimate job,' said Yuen Shu-fan, a prison senior superintendent.