A FORMER Midland detective went from locking people up to helping people out by turning his mind to prisoner rehabilitation.
Chris Bown was a police officer for more than fifteen years before he quit in 2015. He was sick of arresting the same people time and time again.
Mr Bown said that often former prisoners struggle in getting their life back on track and a lot turn back to the lifestyles that got them in trouble in the first place.
“I got sick of the revolving door, if someone gets out of prison and can’t get a job it’s pretty obvious to me what they are going to end up doing,” he said.
“Everybody needs a purpose, and it just wasn’t rewarding sending people to prison anymore, because jail wasn’t changing them anymore.”
After a conversation with Gerry Hanssen, the executive director of specialist high-rise construction company Hanssen, about wanting to do more to help the prisoners who kept coming in and out, Mr Bown received a job offer.
“I think he’s always wanted to do something like this, but he just needed someone to facilitate it,” Mr Bown said.
“I went to my wife and said I’m sick of locking people up, I want to unlock people.”
Since starting with Hanssen in 2015, Mr Bown has overseen the employment and work of more than 100 ex-prisoners at the construction company, with 80 currently employed.
Mr Bown believes the biggest contributing factor to the revolving door of prisoners is often a lack of positive role models in their formative years.
“I think the key to breaking the cycle is these guys going home to their kids every night.
“Before, their kids would have seen their parents going to prison but now they see them going to work every day,” he said.
The idea with Hanssen was to create opportunities for those who often find it hard getting employed after release.
Many ex-prisoners struggle to gain employment after release, due to the stigma associated with them, having to produce a criminal record, as well as long gaps in their resumé which may turn potential employers off.
In addition to his work with Hanssen, Mr Bown founded his own rehabilitation program called Thrive Integration, a support group aimed at reducing recidivism.
Run fortnightly on Wednesday evenings, Thrive Nights are informal gatherings which focus on opportunities for ex-prisoners to build relationships, gain an education and participate in discussions about what they are facing.
“It’s a cross between a church service and an AA meeting pretty much. But it’s completely voluntary if they want to get involved in the faith side of things,” he said.
“They all basically encourage one another, one day someone might be down, and the others will support them.
“When you get a father back into the workforce you also get them back into the home.”
Mr Bown is proud of the work he does and the program he’s created and thinks it’s only going to grow.