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Legal aid helps ex-prisoners reintegrate

Update: April, 27/2012 - 17:38
HA NOI - A centre to help ex-prisoners reintegrate into society was officially opened this morning.

The centre, the first of its kind in the country, has been set up by the Viet Nam Lawyers Association, aimed at supplying supportive services such as legal aid, vocational training and employment advice for ex-prisoners.

Chairman of the Viet Nam Lawyers Association Pham Quoc Anh said tens of thousands of prisoners needed assistance to restart their lives after long jail terms, but many did not receive the necessary support.

"The main obstacle they are facing is discrimination from society. Few employers want to hire anyone who has done time in jail, forcing them back into a life of crime or poverty," he said.

"The establishment of the centre will provide fundamental assistance for them," he said.

Since trial operations started last November, representatives from the centre have visited 375 prisoners to gain a better understanding of their thoughts and aspirations, and provided legal aid to the inmates of Ninh Khanh Prison in Ninh Binh Province, Binh Son Prison in Quang Ngai Province, Thanh Xuan Prison in Ha Noi and Hoa Binh Prison in Hoa Binh Province.

Marie Ottosson, Minister and Head of the Swedish Embassy's Development Co-operation Section, said supporting ex-prisoners who faced discrimination and stigma was a problem for many countries, including Sweden.

She said the centre would be a trustworthy address for ex-prisoners to re-integrate into society, live a better life and avoid returning to crime.

Nguyen Van Dung, an ex-prisoner from Hung Yen Province, said he would have been unable to restart his life without support from local police and relatives after more than 12 years in prison.

Dung was sentenced to 18 months in jail after misusing the State budget, and after he was released, returned to his criminal ways and ended up back behind bars.

"I was lucky to be provided with accommodation and money to start my own business after finishing my sentence. This is the most important period for any ex-prisoner. If they receive the necessary support, they can become model citizens," said Dung, who is now director of Tam Dung Precious Stone Picture Company.

"The centre will be a new beginning for them," he said. - VNS

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