Only those familiar with ex-offenders, commonly known as criminals, former prisoners or bandits, know their inner suffering and rejection.
The unintended ignorance by others of their feelings only fuels their anger and the feeling of being unwanted which could lead to them re-offending in order to return to prison where they feel safe and wanted. This compounds their criminal record, stalls their rehabilitation and reintegration back into society and minimises opportunities for them to atone to their victims, get jobs and lead normal lives.
These are the focal areas of the work done by NPOs Blessed Is The Hands That Gives and Hardlines, which works with the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to help rehabilitate the offenders at Leeuwkop Prison where most from Alexandra are held. This is done through a ministry programme which combines spiritual guidance, counselling, skills training, job opportunities and other methods to help reintegrate them into society when released.
“The interventions are to give the ex-offenders hope, Christian principles about peace, forgiveness, mercy and importance of atonement,” said Philemon Matume, of Blessed Is The Hands That Gives and an ex-offender with a Christian background.
“Its imperative for ex-offenders, their victims including within the family and society at large to get together and forge ahead after talking through, understanding each other’s feelings, pain caused and agreeing to forgive and to atone.”
Matume said they are also creating a support group for ex-offenders struggling to reintegrate. “The group meets in the afternoon on Thursdays at Blessed Is The Hand That Gives Church on 10th Avenue. They go through a prayer topic for the day, dialogue on their challenges and resolutions, are exposed to job opportunities and other potential income sources.
“The engagement gives them the confidence to want to work on reintegrating themselves particularly within families which expect them to contribute to their and dependants’ upkeep.”
Matume said this also helps them to adjust to an environment that would have changed on their return, to manage expectations from their children when they have nothing even for cigarettes, and their own self-care at a time when they are still not trusted.