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Chemical business giving inmates a second chance

After struggling to fill several positions, Formula Chemicals turned to the Work Release Program, which is helping to give inmates a second chance and set them up for a brighter future.

Director at Formula Chemicals, Leigh Smart, needed to fill three positions for chemical process workers and despite trying advertising and word of mouth, he had no success in finding workers.

“It was getting to a desperate stage where we were considering we might not be able to run two plants at the same time and then be hit with added costs to pay overtime to catch up,” he said.

Smart founded Formula Chemicals in 1973 and it’s become one of the country’s largest privately owned chemical companies

He looked into the Work Release Program after hearing about it from a fellow RFNSW member who had experienced success with the program, which is operated by the Security & Intelligence Branch of the Justice Department.

The company has five trucks which are used to carry dangerous goods across NSW.

“It is a straightforward employment process, the same you would perform for any other applicant. They organise to bring the detainee out to your site for a formal interview. They provide details of the charges the detainee has committed and how long he has left on his sentence,” explained Smart.

Just six weeks into using the program, Formula Chemicals has today welcomed its fourth new employee through the program, who is actually an experienced truck driver.

The company operates a fleet of five trucks which are used to carry dangerous goods all over NSW.

“Two of the boys want to stay on after their release and that is fine with us as they are good workers.

“We’re also really keen on this fella we started this morning because he’s got a lot of experience as a truck driver and wants to get back into it. He only has four months on his sentence, so after that we’ll be able to get him his dangerous goods licence and get him into the trucks as well, once he’s ready,” Smart added.

He says the program has been fantastic for his company. “We wanted good workers and this program has worked. The whole process has been seamless and effortless. These are just blokes that have just made a mistake in their life,” Smart said.

The employees are paid normally, however it goes into a ‘jail account’, where they are able to take out expenses. The idea is for the program to help these inmates integrate back into the community upon their release.

“One of the key aspects of this work release program is that inmates are earning and working, and having a sense of self confidence and worth reduces the risk of offending in the community and offers a career pathway for inmates into the future,” Smart added.

“They all wear ankle bracelets for monitoring and are given strict travel requirements. If they don’t show within 30 minutes of start time you just notify the jail, and they pick them up. A couple of failures then they are back doing hard time in maximum security with no reduction in sentence.

“If they don’t work out there is no pressure and all you must do is notify the jail and they don’t send them out the next morning.”

Those interested in the program can contact Road Freight NSW for more information.

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