Having a criminal record has been a barrier to getting a job with the Cayman Islands government, until now.
On Thursday (4 October) a new initiative was launched where prisoners who have served their time will be eligible to work in government departments.
Jean A. Solomon is known as “the prison lady” because she has dedicated her life to the rehabilitation of prisoners.
“It’s something that I am very passionate about, something that is rewarding because I have seen success stories,” she said.
She added, “quite a number of our inmates who have been employed have turned their lives around… I really want to continue, to be that support and that person who makes a difference in the lives of these individuals.”
On Thursday (4 October) prisoners from HMP Northward and HMP Fairbanks gathered to celebrate International Literacy Day. But it was Ms. Solomon who really gave them something to cheer about.
She announced that after meeting and negotiating with government, the prisoners were due to get “second chances in the public service.”
She explained that, on release, they could be eligible for “an opportunity to work with the Cayman Islands government.”
Of course, prisoners will have to show they are worthy of the opportunity and Ms. Solomon stressed they would have to prove themselves first.
There are also many details that need to be worked out first, like which departments are most suitable for former convicts.
Civil Service HR Executive Charlene Howell-Litchmore explained the purpose of the initiative was to “provide employment opportunities to ex-offenders so they can overcome one of the main obstacles they encounter in trying to obtain meaningful employment when they’re released.”
Although the details still need to be finessed, Ms. Sarah Day chimed a note of enthusiasm and optimism on behalf of all the prisoners.
“I think you all can do it, let’s do it!” she said, to cheering from the crowd.
The community has led the way in giving former prisoners a second chance; Ms. Solomon said the time was now right for the government to step up too.
“Convictions [are seen as a] barrier, but the community has not seen it as a barrier, they have given full support over the years and the government has now said it’s time we do the same thing.”
A second chance for these prisoners to hit the right note.