Prison – a new source of workers

PETALING JAYA: With the labour shortage in the country, employers in the service sector are looking to a new source – prisons.

Many are hiring low-risk prisoners who are on parole.

At least two restaurants in Penang have already employed such prisoners while several more are ready to follow suit, including in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.

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The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) said the employment of parole prisoners would be on a case-by-case basis, with thorough background checks done first.

“Everyone deserves a second chance.

“Employing them would give them a chance to prove themselves,” said its president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan.

He said it was more suitable for parole prisoners to begin in the catering sector or even in the kitchens of restaurants.

“Over time, they can be integrated into the front-end and deal with customers,” he said.

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“I have also met with prison officials in Sungai Buloh to discuss how we can integrate parole prisoners into our businesses,” he said.

Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman said the employment of parolees was one way to address the current manpower shortage.

“It will also help in rehabilitating them back into society and prevent a relapse to criminal activities.

“Employees should not worry too much as parole is only given to minor offenders and those who deserve a second chance,” he said.

He, however, noted that the social stigma attached to former convicts would be a hurdle for them to get good jobs after serving their sentences.

He added that it was also important for stakeholders, including government employers, trade unions and also society, to help parolees get back on their feet.

“However, not all vacancies can be filled by parolees as it depends on their existing skills and how quickly they can pick up the required skills.

“Those employed should also not be deemed as temporary replacements for migrant workers but rather an additional source of labour,” he said.

Syed Hussain said the Second Chances and Opportunities for People to Excel (SCOPE) programme under the Human Resource Development Corporation (HRD Corp) would also support inmates who have served their sentences by providing them with skills training and employment opportunities.

“This will reduce the number of repeat offenders. We can reduce the prison population and our dependence on foreign workers,” he said.

He noted how phase one of the programme saw more than 1,000 former convicts being offered jobs in sectors such as construction, transportation, farming, services, and plantations, among others.

“Parolees are also citizens and we must do all we can to support them to reintegrate into society,” he said.

National Association of Human Resources Malaysia (Pusma) president Zarina Ismail, meanwhile, had reservations about parolees in restaurants.

She said they were more suitable for closed environments like factories.

“We can’t punish them forever and have to help them.

“Plantations and factories would be more suitable for parolees,” she said.

In March, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin was quoted as saying that the government was looking at the possibility of using parolees to offset the shortage of foreign workers in certain industries.

He said 80% of the 10,000 inmates expected to undergo the Parole System Programme, Licensed Release of Prisoners Programme and Resident Reintegration Programme could be deployed to fill up vacancies left by foreign workers.

A total of 7,000 inmates are currently under the Community Rehabilitation Programme.

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