Cape Town - If you put boxing and prisoners in the same sentence, you are bound to think a brawl.
However, a photo series by Warren Baynes called 'Unorthodox' has shed light on sides of prison we do not see often.
It offers a 'portal into the world of crime, punishment and rehabilitation' for the offenders at Drakenstein Amateur Boxing Club.
It is here where boxing is a way out of South African gang culture.
"Local and international media are quick to focus on the negative aspect of South Africa’s prisons - corruption, overcrowding, gangs; in fact, the term ‘prison’ brings about negative connotations. There is a strong push in Drakenstein to introduce rehabilitation opportunities for offenders, such as: schooling, skills development, sports and arts." Baynes said.
What is not widely known is that Drankenstein manufactures necessities such as beds and uniforms for facilities around the Western Cape.
Baynes admits that a major challenge he finds himself overcoming is the unpredictable nature of correctional facilities.
"Sometimes the reality of where I’m taking pictures sets in and I become acutely aware of the environment. I’ve been into cells, shared moments with offenders who were charged with violent crimes, and hung out with gangsters. Under the context of what we are doing (making pictures), the reality of the situation is lost and the offenders and myself are just sharing the space and sharing their lives."
"Learning each offenders past has also been an experience. Understanding what led to each offenders incarceration gives a background to the person that they were but not the person they are now or can be in the future."
Active participation in work gives prisoners a sense of purpose and sport programs instills purpose and identity, according to Baynes. This is where boxing comes in.
"Boxing teaches individual responsibility. Many of these offenders get sentenced as groups, or for acting under gang orders, so the pack mentality is something these offenders have always relied on. Once the boxer steps into the ring, his success or failure depends solely on their preparation leading up to the fight and their mental strength during the fight, unlike other group sports."
Boxing has also proven to be a good way to manage and control anger as well as teach humility and sportsmanship.
The final series does not yet have a release date but updates will be announced on Bayne's Instagram account.
Baynes is keen to reach out to any boxing trainers in Cape Town who would like to offer their time to assist with training sessions at the Drakenstein Amateur Boxing Club. He can be contacted on his website or his Instagram.
If there is one thing that Baynes aims to drive home with 'Unorthodox' is no matter how bad the past, there is always opportunity to improve or better ourselves, we just need a vehicle to drive that change.