Jane Doe*, six months shy of release from Victoria’s Tarrengower Prison, decided the opportunity to prepare for getting a job after she was out was too good to pass up.
She was one of the first cohorts of women accepted into the mentoring for women in prison program initiated by Fitted For Work, an independent not-for-profit organisation, working to help women experiencing disadvantage get and keep sustainable work.
Fitted For Work’s volunteer manager Merredith Murphy describes the program as empowering women leaving prison by giving them the skills and ongoing support they need to break the cycle of crime and unemployment.
“In December 2020, we matched four of our fully trained mentors with individual women prisoners who were within three to six months of release,” Ms Murphy said.
“The mentor is there to let the woman know they can have safe conversations like ‘I have a criminal record how do I go about that on my resume’ or if I get an interview how do I talk about this?’
“They will explain what to do and will help to normalise and practice that conversation.
“They are there to help the woman with how to tell her story.”
The mentor is a source of knowledge for the prisoner, directing her to services she may need such as Fitted For Work’s resume writing, upskilling and preparedness for technical and tech-enabled roles, and appropriate clothing for interviews.
“It’s obviously about confidence and having the capacity to build the rapport with the mentee and for her to perceive that the mentor is there to add value and not stress to their life,” Ms Murphy said.
At the program’s commencement, Zoom meetings between mentors and mentees, lasting between 30 to 60 minutes, were facilitated by the prison.
“It is entirely up to them to maintain their virtual relationship by phone or zoom, once they are out,” she said.
Fitted For Work does not force either participant to continue after release; however, Ms Murphy may follow up with the ex-prisoner to ensure the woman is alright if the mentor ceases to hear from her.
Ms Murphy contacted Jane Doe recently to check-in to see if she was okay and let her know her mentor is there waiting to support her if she needed.
Jane Doe was thrilled to say, “I got a job the second day I was out, and then not long after that, I got my dream job, and I love it.”
*Name has been withheld for privacy reasons
Image: Tim Douglas from Pexels
Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges.
Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.