SINGAPORE – Ex-offenders still face discrimination in hiring and within the workplace, but it is now less than before, said prison inmates and former offenders who took part in dialogues organised by the labour movement.
While acknowledging that more employers are open to hiring ex-offenders, the participants also felt that more can be done to inform and educate their staff and colleagues to foster a more understanding and inclusive work environment.
These were some of the insights gleaned from dialogues organised by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), together with Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRSG) and Singapore Prison Service (SPS), to understand the aspirations and challenges faced by ex-offenders and inmates as they return to society and the workplace.
Three dialogues with ex-offenders and inmates have been held so far as part of the #EveryWorkerMatters Conversations.
The year-long public engagement exercise, which was launched in August 2022, aims to reach out to at least 20,000 workers through dialogues, focus group discussions and surveys to gather their views on work, and refresh NTUC’s compact with workers.
NTUC said it aims to reach out to different segments of workers, including those who may have fallen through the cracks.
The first dialogue with ex-offenders and inmates, on Jan 13, titled EveryWorkerMatters x YRConnects: Beyond Second Chances, was co-hosted with YRSG and attended by almost 140 participants, comprising ex-offenders, employers, aftercare partners and union representatives.
The following two sessions, held on Feb 13 and March 9, engaged over 50 inmates at Changi Prison Complex.
During the sessions, the inmates said that while pre-release training and job placement support have become more accessible to them, more support for on-the-job training is key in helping them adapt to their new jobs, especially after prolonged periods away from work.
Many also expressed difficulties in applying new IT and digital skills in an actual job setting due to the lag time between receiving their certification and starting work, noted NTUC.
For example, at the Feb 13 session with female inmates, one participant in her 40s, who hopes to join the hospitality industry after her release, called for opportunities for them to practise or “stay in touch” with the new skills they have acquired, even after receiving certification.
Beyond training and employment, the participants also said that holistic support in areas such as accommodation, mentoring, financial planning and family support is key in reducing the risk of reoffending in the long term.
NTUC assistant secretary-general Patrick Tay assured ex-offenders and inmates during the dialogues that the NTUC Training and Placement Ecosystem, specifically NTUC LearningHub and NTUC’s e2i (Employment and Employability Institute), will continue to support them in their transition back to work, with YRSG and SPS as partners.