Call for support for ex-offenders to help rehabilitate them
This is according to Taryn Johannes, Western Cape supervisor at the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), an NGO that specialises in social crime prevention and offender reintegration.
“A major challenge that most ex-offenders face when they try to rebuild their lives after being imprisoned is the shame due to the stigma attached to being an offender. The individual may have made amends to improve themselves and better their behaviour; however, society often judges that individual and seldom offers them a second chance,” she said.
Johannes said Nicro renders reintegration services to ex-offenders by offering psycho-social support, such as screenings, family contact, counselling, family interventions and external referrals should the organisation not be able to meet their needs.
“We also render advocacy and lobbying services in partnerships with other stakeholders and individuals, such as a criminal records coalition and the Ex-Offender Desk,” she said.
According to Zia Wasserman, national prisons co-ordinator at Sonke Gender Justice, formerly incarcerated people who have served long sentences often struggle to reintegrate into society because they may not have had access to rehabilitative programmes in prison and were not adequately prepared for life beyond release.
“They also have difficulty securing employment, largely due to discrimination on the part of employers and the restrictions attached to having a criminal record,” she said.
Dr Don Pinnock, criminologist at UCT’s Centre of Criminology, said if prisons were better organised, inmates would get intensive skills training while doing time, which would aid them in finding employment.
Conversely, Emerentia Cupido, spokesperson for the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services, said the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) had several rehabilitation and skill development programmes, mainly for sentenced inmates.
“Social workers and psychologists are employed to rehabilitate inmates, there are also life skills programmes offered by DCS officials, and in some centres DCS has personal development programmes, including educational programmes from Adult Basic Education to Grade 12,” she said. “To aid a smooth reintegration of ex-offenders into their communities, inmates must be properly prepared by DCS before release to reduce risk of recidivism.”
Cupido said that while on parole, DCS continued to provide life skills and other training to ex-inmates.
“There are several NGOs that assist inmates’ reintegration, such as Nicro, Khulisa and the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation.
“Halfway houses are in operation, but DCS usually prefers that inmates’ families house and take care of them,” she said.@TheCapeArgus