Hawke's Bay businesses encouraged to hire ex-prisoners to help turn lives around

Working at Tumu Timbers in Hawke's Bay has helped Sonny beat a gambling addiction and turn his back on a life of crime.
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Working at Tumu Timbers in Hawke's Bay has helped Sonny beat a gambling addiction and turn his back on a life of crime.

By the time he was eight, Sonny was addicted to horse racing. 

"The sense of fun, adrenalin, risk-taking and money-making took me a away from a very unhappy childhood," he told more than a 100 people gathered in Napier on Wednesday morning. 

The gambling lead to stealing to support his habit, and in 2010 he was imprisoned for burglary. He was declined his first shot at parole, but was offered rehabilitation in other ways, including release to work at Tumu Timbers.

He's now working there as a contractor, and says having the job had given him a routine, pride, a sense of achievement, and something to work for. 

READ MORE: Halting the conveyer belt to jail

Daniel was raised among violence and abuse. 

Daniel racked up 21 convictions, but is now working full-time in a job he loves with Thornhill Horticultural Contracting.
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Daniel racked up 21 convictions, but is now working full-time in a job he loves with Thornhill Horticultural Contracting.

"Picture the film Once Were Warriors. That gives you an idea of our lives." 

The 49-year-old from Gisborne first offended when he was 20, and since then had been convicted 21 times for a range of crimes including dishonesty, drugs, alcohol and violence. 

He now works for Thornhill Horticultural Contracting, he's been with them for five years and is now a supervisor and a tractor operator on one of the biggest vineyards in the region. 

The two men told their stories to a breakfast of potential employers to let them know how taking a risk on someone with convictions could help them turn their lives around.

The Department of Corrections has been hosting breakfasts around the country in a bid to get more businesses taking offenders on.

Both men were hugely thankful for the employers who had given them jobs and the opportunity to make more of thier lives.

James Truman of Tumu Timbers said employers thinking of hiring someone through the scheme should not let stigma get in the way.

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Employees were under strict conditions, and if they stepped out of line, they would be sent back inside.

Having heard the challenges both Daniel and Sonny had faced, Truman said employers owed it to them to give them a chance. 

Corrections chief executive Ray Smith said working could help people turn their lives around, giving them a place to go every day, a sense of belonging, and a sense of contribution.

He said giving people jobs when they left prison was a "game changer".

"I think it gives people a chance to live a lives of dignity and decency."

It also reduced a person's odds of reoffending and going back into prison.

 - Stuff

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