Thirty inmates at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOC) participated in the Ministry of Labor ’s eighth instalment of Labor on the Blocks on Thursday morning.
The initiative is aimed at providing soon-to-be-released inmates with employment opportunities in an effort to decrease the prison’s recidivism rate.
The 30 job seekers, who will be released from BDOC within the next three months, were given the opportunity to sit face-to-face with 16 prospective employers, confirmed Minister of Labor Dion Foulkes.
“All 16 of these companies participating in today’s Labor on the Blocks have assured us that they are serious about engaging any inmates who qualify and meet their internal requirements,” Foulkes said.
Inmates had an audience with a security firm, a construction company, wholesale food and water distributors, and a list of other employers.
Charles Murphy, Acting Commissioner of Corrections said the job fair is a step in the right direction for inmates who are approaching the end of their rehabilitation process.
“Before now, companies were reluctant and had reservations, but this initiative today is a stamp of approval that persons who come in here can be rehabilitated and equipped to be re-integrated into society and make valuable contributions,” he said.
According to Murphy, inmates – through the department’s rehabilitative process – are provided with the soft skills they need for workplace integration.
“Inmates are engaged in life management, family planning, money management and a number of other skills. They are interviewed before being selected for this level of the rehabilitative program,” he said.
Two inmates currently pending release told Eyewitness News that the job fair provides them with a second chance at life after leaving BDOC.
Twenty-one-year-old Brittany Evans, who has so far served 11 months in prison, is expecting to be released on November 1.
“When I heard about the job fair I felt as though I was no longer counted out by society,” she said.
“When you come here [at BDOC] you start from the bottom up, so with this experience now it helps to give you the drive that you can possibly be able to secure a job once coming out of here.”
Inmate Ian Hutchinson, who has served 13 years of a life sentence, described the job fair as a new lease on life
“All hope is not lost, there are some folks out there who still care and they are willing to give us a chance,” he said. “Now, it’s what we do with the opportunity. If we blow it, then that is on us.”
The program will eventually be extended to former inmates having a difficulty securing employment, Foulkes confirmed.
In the end, the effort is expected to put a dent in the correctional facility’s recidivism rate.