The annual report of the Linkage Programme — which is aimed at assisting former offenders by helping them to gain access to training, education and employment — was published yesterday.
Prison has three functions: punishment, rehabilitation, and protecting the public. While incarceration is inevitably a punishment, it simultaneously protects the public from further offences that might be committed and it affords an opportunity for rehabilitation.
Prisoners who come from broken, dysfunctional families may never have had a proper chance in life. Everyone deserves a chance.
The Linkage Programme deals with offenders who are motivated to improve their lives and are anxious to start over. It involves a collaborative approach between the Probation Service, the business community and agencies such as FÁS, IBEC, and the Small Firms Association, along with the non-profit sector.
By helping to find sustainable employment for ex-offenders, the programme not only helps them to improve their lives but it also helps their families. Furthermore, employment helps to prevent recidivism. This, in turn, is a benefit to society as a whole.
The Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform has provided funding of €1.55 million through the Probation Service. Clients are assessed to ensure they are placed in employment that they find fulfilling, as this minimises the likelihood of re-offending.
Between 2000 and the end of 2008, the programme dealt with 5,198 former offenders. It helped 3,419 offenders get education, training and employment. More than half of those were placed in employment, one-third in training, and a further 15% in education.
Encouragingly, there was an 81% increase in referrals to the programme during 2008, and a 50% increase in the number of placements during the year. The hotel and catering industries showed the highest increase in placements during 2007 and 2008, with a 185% rise. There was 118% increase in the transport industry.
News that so many people have been helped is warmly welcomed, but it is important that figures should also be provided to demonstrate that the programme is effective in preventing recidivism. Once this impact is clearly demonstrated it should further help in promoting the initiative.
There are 18 training and employment officers employed to supervise the programme, which maintains contact with the employers. Those in charge of the programme state they have never heard of an employer having issues with someone referred to them from the Linkage Programme. This is fantastic, but a bit vague.
It would be a much more forceful statistic if the survey quantified the degree of satisfaction, because this could encourage other employers to become involved.
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