The Caymanian Compass poll this week indicates a majority of respondents are cautious about hiring former prison inmates, worrying that they need to have proven themselves in pre-release programmes.
The question posed asked about hiring “ex-cons”. Of the 535 people that answered, 191, 35.7 per cent of the total, opined that, “maybe, if they’ve gone through work training and rehabilitation programmes”.
While a non-committal response, it nonetheless reflects concerns about levels of trust and the background of former convicts. Questions are inevitable about the risks involved.
One respondent, however, broached the concept of second chances, suggesting that commission of a mistake should not earn endless retribution.
“Should we allow anyone who drives under the influence to ever drive again?” the voter wrote, pointing to a common concept of commensurate, if limited, punishment. Drink drivers commit a grave offence, deservedly sacrificing the right to operate a motor vehicle, but the loss is time-limited and a licence ultimately restored in the hopes the offender has learned the lesson. Re-offences are met with escalating severity.
“Everyone should be given a chance so long they can show that they are trying,” another voter wrote. “The prison should have a referral programme in which prisoners that leave on good standing are able to get a letter specifying such.”
This appears to be essentially the practice as prison and parole officials develop programmes to regulate Northward “lifers” on release, a provisional step taken under careful scrutiny and fenced by regulation of hours, movements and behaviours.
While “maybe” topped the voting, a close second place was assumed by 181 voters, 33.8 per cent of the total, who said “No, companies should not be forced to hire anyone they don’t want and can’t trust.”
While not an unreasonable response, no work programmes for prisoners have sought to obligate any employers, but the challenge remains to reposing trust in former inmates.
A distant third, drawing only 81 votes, 15.1 per cent of the total, was the unconditional approval: “Yes, hire them all. Everyone should get a second chance.”
The sentiment is broad-minded, suggesting efforts to address problems of recidivism, unemployment and the need to earn a living. It does not address issues of trust or reliability, although those might be remedied as part of consistent and gainful labour.
“Yes,” voted one respondent, bearing in mind Cayman’s high recidivism rates. “I feel by not hiring them, you are throwing them back in to the public with no job and no money, which will lead to stealing and other crimes all over again.”
Another agreed that a mistake in judgment did not warrant extended imprisonment, repeating the Biblical injunction against judgmental presumptions: “They deserve a second chance,” was the comment. “Everyone makes mistakes. Those without sin cast the first stone.”
Similarly, the idea was echoed in a third response: “Nothing wrong with giving someone a second chance. Why should they have to pay for their crime a whole lifetime? Isn’t sending them to jail their payment to society for what they have done?”
While approving the category and intent, a fourth respondent offered a sober caveat, suggesting that the sentiment was not unconditional, perhaps deserving a modicum of caution.
“Yes, hire them all,” was the vote, followed by a careful – and earlier – admonition: “However, you should not require employers to hire ex-cons. As well, the ex-cons should not hold jobs in financial institutions or as security.”
A fourth category offered a more reserved approach to hiring ex-cons, indicating basic approval, but hemmed by greater cautions than the top choice hoping for training programmes: “Yes, but only those convicted of lesser offences and not violent criminals.”
That choice drew 71 votes, 13.3 per cent, and elicited two curious responses.
At first blush, the top response appears intolerant, but “Caymanians only should have this option” articulates a dilemma. What ex-con expatriate will remain in the Cayman Islands, facing a stigma often attached to former prisoners and foreigners, and where might that expatriate gain a work permit? And as the voter above observed, recidivism looms for those “with no job and no money”.
The other respondent in the category offered a similar observation: “Here’s my take, if I don’t hire them or they don’t receive work, we will pay a bigger price anyway, that being in increased crimes or increased food vouchers.”
Identifying the need for a sort of “halfway house” readjustment programme for released prisoners, the voter paraphrased an old aphorism: “Help a man learn to fish and then earn his fish.”
Finally, and diversely, the “other” category produced a handful of remarks and reflections, led, perhaps, by the aggregated embrace of three of the choices.
“Your question makes no sense,” the respondent challenged. “Yes, I think they should have a second chance; yes, after they have had work training and rehab; and, yes, companies should not be forced to hire anyone they don’t want or can’t trust.”
Another, presumably a business owner, was fatalistic about the prospects of hiring ex-cons: “Even those who aren’t ex-cons steal from my company, so what’s the difference?”
One reasonably proposed that such hiring “depends on the individual”, while a second and a third agreed: “You cannot have a blanket policy, each individual must be hired based on an individual basis” and “each one needs to be looked at on a case-by-case basis and evaluated. Some deserve a second chance others should rot in a cell.”
Next week’s poll question:
- The Law Reform Commission is proposing significant divorce law changes.
- I’m in support. No-fault divorce is expeditious and humane
- I am NOT in support. Divorce damages families; no-fault encourages it
- The laws are archaic. The changes are welcome
- Abusive relationships should be ended quickly
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com