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Cape Town -
Dressed up in orange prison uniforms and shackled at the wrists and ankles, former convicts took to the streets of Beacon Valley with the message that “crime doesn’t pay”.
Clive Petersen, John Palm, Nicholas Isaacs and Jeremy Davis each spent time behind bars for crimes ranging from theft to murder.
They have since turned their lives around to become evangelists in the Apostolic Faith Mission, Mission Care and the United Reform churches, the organisers of yesterday’s march.
Yesterday the four evangelists joined members of their church with a message to residents that gangsterism, drugs and crime lead to prison.
“Our young people end up in prison due to wrong choices,” said Palm.
He spent many years in Pollsmoor prison for housebreaking and theft.
Palm grew up in Kew Town, Athlone, and became a “habitual prisoner”, he said.
“I became a 26s gang member in prison and was serving two 15-year sentences when I decided to turn my life around.”
He added that 80 percent of young people in prison lacked a good father figure.
“Children are looking for love and attention and they come from broken and dysfunctional communities.
“We want to expose our own lives and show the reality of what happens behind bars.”
Palm added that young people needed role models.
“I’m very worried. My heart is bleeding for our youth.
“Gangsterism, drugs and domestic violence are rife in our communities.”
Petersen, who also grew up in Kew Town, became a gang member in Grade 6.
“We started the Dixie Boys. I grew up in a religious house and I received everything from my mom.”
Petersen said that when he was growing up he was very rebellious and wanted to experience prison life.
“I was 17 years old when I went to prison for murder.”
He was released at the age of 21 only to be rearrested after he shot a man.
“In 1988 I shot a guy after he hit me with a panga.
“I went back to prison and was charged with terrorism because of the type of gun I used.”
Petersen said he had become one of the biggest drug merchants in Kew Town.
“I was caught up in tik and rocks (crack cocaine) and because of that I lost everything including my family.
“I called out to God and he saved me.”
He urged young people to stay away from crime and gangsterism.
“Crime doesn’t pay, you end up in prison.
“We don’t want our children to end up that way.”