Sweden is helping young offenders rebuild their lives through a subsidised work program focused on rebuilding their confidence, preparing them for the workplace and helping them expand their social networks. After the four weeks, participants are placed in traineeships with local businesses before undertaking state-subsidised full-time employment. An assessment of the scheme between 2007 and 2009 found that the ex-offenders were more than 40% more likely to find full-time work than those who did not take part.
Results & Impact
An assessment of the scheme between 2007 and 2009 found that the ex-prisoners who participated were more than 40% more likely to enter full-time employment than those who did not.
Swedish Prison and Probation Services, National Employment Services, Municipal Authorities
The Krami program is run by Sweden's National Employment Services, Prison and Probation Services and Municipal authorities. Each Krami centre is overseen by a Local Steering Group composed of representatives from the three partners. Participants are directed to the scheme via social workers, probation officers, employment centres or word of mouth. They must sign a contract promising to behave appropriately and abstain from drugs and alcohol. Dedicated social workers give the ex-offenders three weeks of training focused on instilling a positive mentality and work ethic. Social activities such as sports, cooking and excursions are viewed as key to rehabilitation. After the guidance period, participants are placed in internships, which are designed to last between eight weeks and six months and lead to permanent employment. During the internship phase participants continue to receive benefits and are not paid. To incentivise the employer to hire the ex-offenders full-time, Krami provides wage subsidies for two to three years. Even after participants have found permanent employment, participants can work with their guidance counselor for as long as they choose. Funding is split between three parties: the Swedish Prison and Probation Services, National Employment Services and the Municipality. The Prison and Probation Services and Municipality share the cost of the program, while the National Employment Services funds the cost of employment subsidies.
Cost & Value
A 2002 study by the Board of Health and Welfare showed that over a 15-year period, the scheme reduced state expenditure by $285,000 per person.
Running since 1980
Due to the time-consuming nature of the intervention, the program has a limited reach. In Malmö, 12 case workers support approximately 100 to 120 people per year. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many people participate in the program three to five times before finding employment. The three-agency structure underpinning Krami can also be problematic: each organisation has its own procedures and rules, which can sometimes be difficult for case workers to navigate when creating plans for participants that draw on the resources of multiple agencies.
Sweden is helping ex-offenders find work through a program providing psychological support and employment subsidies.
Participants pledge to abstain from drugs, alcohol and criminal behaviour before undergoing three to four weeks of character-building therapy and employment counselling. They then undertake an unpaid internship with the potential to lead to a permanent job. The expectation is that 50% of participants will find full-time employment.
The program’s success has led to its replication across the country. Launched in Malmö in 1980, Krami was rolled out across Sweden in the 1990s and is now delivered in more than 20 locations. An assessment of the scheme between 2007 and 2009 found that participants were more than 40% more likely to enter full-time employment than those who did not take part.
Developed by the Swedish Probation Service, Labour Institute and the City of Malmö, Krami stemmed from a need for greater cohesion between government agencies to help young offenders find work.
“People who had served their time in prison needed a lot of support and help, and they weren’t getting it from the local authorities,” said Mikael Andersson, Head of Section at Krami in Malmö. “They were just being pushed around between the social offices, the employment institute. The prison and probation services and city authorities said, ‘We need to work closer together and map out these people’s lives’.”
The program is run by a National Board of Collaboration which comprises members of the National Employment Services and Prison and Probation Services. The committee determines and reviews the terms on which it is administered across Sweden, the program’s outcomes and its expansion process. Local Steering Groups (LSGs) are responsible for Krami’s implementation at each Krami office. Both are composed of representatives from Probation Services, Employment Services and Municipal authorities, although offices vary in size. Staff costs are split between the three bodies, while the local authorities are responsible for operating expenditure.
At the heart of the initiative is a focus on psychological support. When entering the program, ex-prisoners sign a contract pledging to refrain from criminal activity, drugs, alcohol and violence. They are required to report absences from work, undertake at least one social activity per week and surrender a urine sample whenever requested. Should they break the contract, participants will be removed from the program, although they are free to reapply after a month’s break. Nine out of 10 dropouts return, and graduates tend to repeat the program three to five times.
The first three to four weeks prioritise character building by helping participants mentally re-engage with the workplace. This involves talking through participants’ aspirations and helping them appreciate their potential to find success within the workplace.
“Krami turns to people who are furthest from the labour market,” said Andersson. “During the guidance phase we ask the client, ‘What do you want to do? What can you do? What do you want to do with your future?’ They say, ‘Oh well I want to work in construction,’ for instance, and then we will help them contact employers within the industry.”
An action plan focused around specific goals is developed to provide a pathway to labour market in the industry of their choice. From the second week onwards there is a strong focus on practical preparation for the work environment. This includes lessons in CV building, job applications, interview techniques and visits to potential employment sites, while mental weaknesses continue to be tackled through sessions focusing on self-esteem and personal responsibility.
The program organises internships for participants through local employment services after the four-week guidance period. The vocational period typically lasts between eight weeks and six months. Although the average time period is two to three months, significant variations are inevitable due to the diverse and often considerable needs of Krami participants.
“A lot of people who come into Krami, they have never worked before, they have lived with crime since they were teenagers, they don’t have any references and they haven’t been to school,” said Andersson. “So they need to do a lot of vocational training before they get employed.”
The willingness of employers to take on Krami participants stems from both the program’s reputation and the comprehensive support and assistance provided by Krami officials. During their internship participants meet Krami officials at least once a week to ensure they are coping psychologically and with the demands of the workplace. Meetings are also held with the employers to monitor the client’s progress and identify what they need to do in order to secure a full-time a job. If the employer has any problems with the employee they can terminate the internship at any point. The Krami authorities will take care of any problems that transpire: for example, if that participant becomes aggressive or if an employer is concerned about confrontation over employment termination, case workers will step in.
During the internship employers do not pay Krami participants, who instead receive benefits, based on an understanding that there is potential for full-time, paid work. If an employer is not prepared to consider hiring the employee on a full-time basis under any circumstances, the internship is called off.
The state subsidises Krami participants’ wages to incentivise employers to hire them permanently. Wages can be subsidised for up to three years. To begin with, employers only pay 30-35% of the participants’ salaries. Subsidies are gradually reduced over time, although the exact amount varies depending on several factors: previous work experience, educational background and length of unemployment, among others.
Krami also recognises the importance that a good social environment can have on participants’ behaviour, and seeks to create a new network of support and activities to complement the work-focused rehabilitation. To prevent participants from falling back into old habits, frequent social activities are organised with the state footing the bill. Excursions include sports, cooking, films or trips out, but are all designed to foster a communal sense of identity and reduce the degree to which participants think in terms of themselves.
“It’s like social networking,” said Andersson. “Building relations with our clients is very important to us because through these relations we build up trust and respect and we can influence them to hopefully make the right choices.”
Even after participants have secured full-time employment, they are welcome to participate in Krami, as long as they are working toward a clear goal. For instance, debt is a frequent problem that clients struggle with even after gaining employment. Krami centres are open every evening after work to allow anyone in need, whether a current or former participant, to drop in. They can also continue to take part in social activities so long as they are using Krami officials for some form of support.
Participants are directed to the scheme via social workers, probation officers, employment centres or word of mouth. In Malmö, between 100-120 people take part in the program each year, with each receiving a dedicated case officer from a team of 12. Before participants can sign the contract they are interviewed individually by Krami staff and must certify that they have not taken drugs for at least four weeks. Participants are also required to have a permanent address and to have organised any childcare they might require.
A 2002 study by the Board of Health and Welfare confirmed Krami’s impact. Over a 15-year period it was found to have reduced state expenditure by $285,000 (USD) per person, between 2.5 and five times greater than other control programs.
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