The life of a PARS field officer
You might know what PARS do for ex-prisoners, but do you really know what that means for the staff who day in, day out do their best to support prisoners as they re-enter society? We wanted to give you some insights into what supporting prisoners actually means, so who better to explain that than one of the incredible PARS field workers, Aaron?
"I joined PARS in 2008 as a field officer. Originally on a short term contract, I joined the organisation for a number of reasons, and over time my dedication hasn't changed, although my motivations have. After having worked there for so many years, my motivation is now very much about encouraging those who come to PARS to make the most of their options, and see that there are in fact options. This job is very much about encouragement, and helping people identify skill sets they may not even know they have."
Wearing different hats
"My job puts me in many roles: listening ear, cheerleader, taxi driver - you name it! Mostly my job is to challenge them to take up opportunities, be the best they can be, and help them understand what the reality is for those leaving prison.
A big part of my job is conducting pre-release interviews. These help us figure out what we can assist prisoners with once they leave the confines of prison. There are often constraints on what prisoners are able to do, both before and after leaving prison, and we cater our services to what their needs are."
It's not all on the road…
"I spend roughly 60 percent of my time on the road, while 40 is generally spent doing paperwork back in the office. Out on the road, my role includes everything from talking to landlords and scouting streets for 'to lease' signs to delivering letters to the prisons and picking up prisoners on release.
Once I've spent a day on the road, I'll generally spent most of the next one back at my desk in the office. It's hugely important that we document everything we do so I need to account for my time and write reports, as well as process applications to help clients register for the benefit, obtain an ID, and more."
Wishing I could do more
"The biggest challenge, and the hardest part of the job for me is when you just can't find someone a home - when you've talked to a hundred landlords and you still can't get anything, yet you've got someone sitting in the car with you having just left prison. At that point there's not much you can do for them except keep searching the next day."
Making it all worth it
"The most rewarding part, the part that makes it all worth it, is picking prisoners up on release day. I always have the realisation that someone has missed out on this huge chunk of their life, and it's really sobering. One guy had been in prison for 20 years, and was amazed by how big the trees were outside - they had been bushes when he went in. It makes you appreciate afresh every week what freedom means - you can't put a price on that. It drives me to help ex-prisoners realise that whatever you might gain from crime, it's not worth it because of that. The ones that are a success, those are the ones who have that realisation, and that's what makes it worth it."