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Employer rewarded for offering chances


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POSTED: Sunday, October 05, 2008

While many employers would not consider hiring ex-convicts, one successful business owner offers them a second chance.

Over the last six years, Kevin Nip, formerly with MarbleHaus Hawaii and co-owner of Selective Stone LLC, has hired 15 former inmates to work at the stone tiling companies. With a master's degree in criminology, he understands the obstacles offenders face once they re-enter society after prison.

"Being around other individuals and people that can provide not only moral but motivational support. I think that's definitely a key to keep them motivated and keep them focused," he said.

Experts say community support is a vital part of rehabilitation for offenders.

"Programs cannot reintegrate people, only communities can. So any program seeking to promote reintegration has to work with communities, draw on community strengths and utilize this social capital," Shadd Maruna, criminologist of Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, said in a written statement.

Nip echoed Maruna's sentiment. "We as a community need to be more accepting of these individuals as being human beings just like we are. They should be given that chance to prove themselves or given that chance to at least take an opportunity to see where they can go with that," he said.

Daniel P. Miller, 43, who spent 12 years in prison for first-degree burglary and drug-related charges, was recently hired by Nip to work as a forklift driver. For years, he battled a heroin and cocaine habit and burglarized homes for cash, jewelry and computer laptops to support his addiction.

Miller said he appreciates that Nip didn't denounce him for his past and was willing to offer him a job. "I'm really grateful right now," he said.

Nip said he believes reintegration into society with the community's help is important to help inmates regain a sense of identity. Having a job gives them a sense of responsibility, he said. "A lot of them have not had that sense of responsibility. It makes them feel like they have something to accomplish."

An instrumental part of Miller's reintegration into society was the partnership between the federal detention center and the Building Industry Association of Hawaii's pre-apprenticeship construction training program. The program was first offered to inmates in June 2007. Participants are required to have a high school diploma or a GED and have a year or less remaining in their prison sentence.