A journal developed by a former prisoner is empowering incarcerated youth to have a positive mindset towards education and employment.

Grant Type
Pitch In
Focus
Economic Empowerment
Date
2024
Partner

When Joe Kwon was 21, he was arrested for operating a drug syndicate and sentenced to 13 years in jail. Growing up in a marginalised community in south-western Sydney - the son of a single mother from Korea - his criminal career stemmed from feeling outcast and misunderstood at school and at home. Instead, he found the belonging and respect he craved in local gangs and eventually the criminal underworld.

During his time in jail, Joe was unexpectedly mentored by a cellmate who was serving time for tax fraud. This man introduced Joe to positive thinking about education, self-worth and business and led him to purse his high school education in prison. Eventually, Joe was accepted into the University of New South Wales and upon his release, founded the social enterprise Confit Pathways.

As he told the audience that gathered for the Bennelong Foundation 2024 Sydney Pitch In: “I used to run a criminal enterprise, now I run a social enterprise.”

Confit Pathways aims to reduce recidivism (the rate of re-incarceration) in Australia by helping incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people develop a positive mindset around the value of employment and education.

It also provides these young people with a community that helps them successfully reintegrate into society, addressing the alarming statistic that 61% of young people aged 10-17 who are released from sentenced detention return within 6 months. 80% return within 12 months.

It does this by operating peer-to-peer sessions in Youth Justice Centres across NSW and for at risk youth in high schools and in the community. In addition, it runs positive mindset training, industry training and support for jobs and further education.

“While being incarcerated, young people may struggle with feelings of disconnection, hopelessness, and low self-esteem, leading to a cycle of negative behaviors and interactions,” Joe says.

“Without tangible tools and resources to support their personal growth and development, they may feel stuck in their circumstances, with limited opportunities for positive change. Our mission is to turn around that mindset.”

With funding from the Bennelong Foundation, secured at Pitch In Sydney, Confit Pathways is developing a new resource for the young people taking part in its programs. The G-Code Journal will provide prompts and writing exercises that motivate them to embody three values that Joe himself used daily in prison - gratitude, goals and grounding.

"The code in jail is the code of silence. Where your word is everything, it often doesn't lead to positive outcomes,” Joe says.

“I created the G-Code based on gratitude, goal setting and groundedness. It's about appreciating the little we have, setting goals to move forward and staying grounded in the present.

“Through setting and pursuing meaningful goals outlined in their journals, these young people will have a clearer sense of direction and purpose. They will feel empowered to take proactive steps towards personal and academic/career-related achievements.”

Read more about the program here.

Impactful results

The positive change

Confit Pathways is enabling incarcerated and formerly incarcerated young people to participate in education and employment opportunities.

Outcome

Better access to the training and skills young, incarcerated people need to become self-supporting.

Outcome

Better access to the education young, incarcerated people need to open pathways to future career opportunities.

I used to run a criminal enterprise, now I run a social enterprise.

Joe Kown

Founder and CEO, Confit Pathways

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