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Japanese government seeks to reduce repeat offenders through jobs program for ex-convicts

Kyodo

The Justice Ministry has helped a total of 128 past offenders find jobs within about a year after leaving prison since the establishment of specialized job centers in November 2016, ministry data showed Wednesday.

The government had long sought prior to then to reduce repeat offender numbers by boosting employment opportunities for those that finish their sentence, but had not set up a system to inform employers about which prisons hold potential candidates.

The correctional work support centers — established in the cities of Saitama and Osaka — collect data such as the age and qualifications of some 2,500 inmates scheduled to finish their terms within the next six months. The centers then notify recruiters so they can post job offers at the appropriate offices.

By the end of last year, the centers received 848 inquiries from firms, which led to the employment of 128 former prisoners, including 16 who were placed in juvenile correction.

Among the employers, 85 were construction-related, followed by 18 in transport and eight in nursing, according to the ministry.

“It is leading to a certain amount of employment,” said Ryohei Ito, an official at the Saitama center, which covers eastern Japan. But he added that the centers “still need to spread awareness about the system amongst companies.”

The centers hold presentations for companies and engage in other promotional measures to encourage hiring.

Recruiters who have already used the new system said they can now offer jobs more smoothly to job-seekers at prisons and correctional institutions.

At a Chiba Prefecture construction firm that hired a man released from a juvenile correction facility, an official said that the man works hard and hopes he will “assume a leading role in the future.”

Suffering from a shortage of workers, the company made direct job offers to prisons in the past, but it resulted in only a limited number of recruits that quit soon afterwards.

Under the system, companies receive a list of prisons and other facilities with people who match their specific needs every two to three months. “Not everyone is motivated, but that’s the same with regular recruitment,” said the official. “They are valuable resources for the company.”

According to the Justice Ministry, between 2012 and 2016, the chances of a repeat offense by those under probation and without a job was 26 percent, over three times higher than their job-holding counterparts.

To help employment numbers, the government has offered financial incentives to hiring companies and also began staffing job-placement workers at prisons since 2015.

Job-seeking past offenders are also receiving support from nongovernmental groups, including a nonprofit organization providing a guarantee of up to ¥2 million ($18,700) in compensation if the employee causes damage at the company.