Network A Facilitating access and return to the labour market for those who have difficulty in being integrated or reintegrated into a labour market which must be open to everyone.
Project name New Way for Ex-offenders
Project number A0138

Project description

The Partnership was established with a view in working out a model approach to occupational integration of ex-offenders upon their release from penitentiaries. The activities proposed under the Project are intended to enhance ex-offenders' job finding opportunities and support their social reintegration. The Central Board of Penitentiary Service, which is the promoter of the Partnership, invited research institutions to the Project along with post-penitentiary assistance providers.

According to surveys carried out under Activity 1, post-penitentiary assistance providers are not cooperating with each other and fail to share information so that their activities are overlapping, while some assistance areas are neglected. These institutions have a wide range of inadequately defined responsibilities and usually they provide assistance on an ad-hoc basis.

Partnership Promoters have noticed a lack of comprehensive approaches that would help ex-convicts effectively to re-integrate with the society. Penitentiary establishments do not provide convicts with training in jobs that are sought after on the labour market, while internships or placements for active convicts are hardly available. Addiction therapy, as proposed to the convicts, is cursory and ineffective. Probation officers in charge of ex-convicts are unable to provide them with any meaningful job finding assistance. They face prejudice and stereotypes: employers are unwilling to employ ex-convicts, even if checking applicant's conviction record is not required.

Five hundred persons (of which 50 women, i.e. 10% of all participants) from 30 penitentiaries across Poland will benefit from the Project. The Partnership will address the problems of the convicted disabled, mentally ill and single mothers. All target groups of the Project (persistent offenders, first offenders, women, juvenile offenders) face specific problems associated with reintegration into family and social life or the labour market. As a general rule, those incarcerated lack education or vocational skills, they are unaware of public standards and often they are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Upon release they are provided with ad-hoc assistance, which is strengthening their passive or demanding attitudes. Their families face disintegration and their
children are exposed to depravity for lack of any positive role model. Feeling condemned by their environment, ex-convicts are unable to start a normal life. Discrimination at employment market, a lack of support from the family and community lead to marginalisation and exclusion.

The objective of the Partnership is to work out a methodology for cooperation of institutions that are active in various segments of the community life. An integrated support system will cover also those related to ex-convicts (family members, potential employers and the local community).

Since Partnership will implement the Project across Poland, the new solutions will be tested in specific conditions prevailing in various regions (Silesia, Bieszczady Mountains, border areas or Mazurian Lakeland).

In order for ex-convict reintegration to be effective, they must be equipped with social skills, in addition to vocational ones. The Partnership offers vocational training, integration sessions, psychologist's advice and personal/legal counselling. The actual offer will be tailored to beneficiaries' predispositions. The convicts will follow their individual action plans, considering their personality traits, needs, expectations and existing skills. The Project will involve occupational integration of physically and mentally disabled persons. An innovative approach to addiction treatment is also planned. Also penitentiary staff will be offered training events.

Thanks to better skills Project beneficiaries will have better job finding opportunities, while psychologist's support will prepare them for the effort of starting a new life. Each of them will be given a portfolio containing: a social contract, individual action plan, certificates of completion of training courses/events and internships, formal certificates of vocational skills and other documents attesting to specific activities. Ongoing contacts with probation officers and mentors will help to maintain effects of the Project following the release.

Central consultation points, local Project teams and labour clubs will be established under the Project to coordinate efforts of non-government organisations, social workers and probation officers. This will help to avoid centralisation: initiative and overall responsibility for specific tasks and cooperation between institutions will be transferred from the Project to the regional level.

The idea behind the Project and its results will be disseminated on several levels. The achievements of the beneficiaries will be presented to other convicts. Partnership efforts and Project progress will be presented on the Internet page. International cooperation is intended to promote and share good practice. Conferences and panels will promote the concept among the employers and help to understand their expectations.

The Partnership will issue its final report with effectiveness assessments for specific actions taken or completed and with description of threats and related problem solving methods.