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31 Jan, 2009 07:27

Future for ex-cons hopeless once out of the big house

Former convicts in Russia are being left to fend for themselves once they get out of prison. The ex-cons are angry because they believe more should be done to stop them returning to crime.

Fifteen years in prison can completely erase your past, and your future. You could no longer have a job, friends or a home.

Vladimir Gladkov says he's lucky to have a roof over his head, and the $US 300 per month he gets as a delivery boy is enough to cover food and clothing. Having served time for murder, Vladimir is afraid to reveal his past to an employer because it makes it almost impossible to find a job.

“There should be educational centers organised for people in prison, so convicts are not involved in useless work, such as sewing potholders,” Vladimir says.

It's only now after leaving prison that he can learn a new trade. Books, computer classes, music – all of these were unavailable behind bars.

Vladimir Volzhsky has a completely different story. In 2004 he got into the Guinness Book of World Records as the only man to record three albums while in prison. Vladimir sold his apartment to equip a studio inside the jail.

“I spent the biggest part of my term in the communist times of the USSR. One could hardly imagine anything of the kind back then! A sound recording studio? What are you talking about? Are you kidding? Back then we breathed according to a schedule,” Vladimir says before adding, “When Yeltsin came to power in the 90s the attitude to prisoners changed in a good way”.

Now Vladimir has forged a career in music. He has a loyal fan base and gets at least $US 2,000 a gig.

However, not many inmates like Vladimir can sing, and a former convict has poor chances of finding a job.

But there are job agencies which try to find employment for applicants with a record.

Ekaterina Gorokhova of Kelly Services recruiting agency says that, despite all the difficulties, they’ve found a job for a person who had spent 16 years in prison for killing his wife.

“Finally, we managed to convince the client to take that guy. And actually, as it turned out, he was very good at it,” she said. He soon got a promotion and became a shift supervisor.