Prisoners help rebuild palace

2013-10-11 00:00

PRISON inmates are getting a new lease on life as they begin their journey by continuing their education whilst serving their prison sentence.

King Goodwill Zwelithini recently praised the work of offenders who helped in rebuilding the queen’s palace in Mahlabathini, KwaZulu-Natal. The inmates are a part of the Adult Education and Training (AET) programmes held across the country.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony at Nkonjeni in Ulundi last week, the king commended the quality of the workmanship.

“We cannot deny that as communities there are some who want offenders to rot in jail, but they are also humans like us. We need to accept them when they come out [of jail] because the department has done their job to rehabilitate their lives,” the king said.

Logan Maistry, spokesperson for the minister of Correctional Services, said in October last year, the king sent a request for the rebuilding of his mother’s home to the Office of the Premier, who in turn passed it on to the Department of Correctional Services.

“The department was approached to help with the rebuilding because many inmates have now acquired the skills to complete these tasks and it was a good opportunity for them to be involved in something like this. Those enrolled in these education schemes are helping many disadvantaged communities by building schools and homes,” he said.

Director of The Phoenix Zululand restorative justice programme, Nonceba Lushaba, said while the minister of Correctional Services is trying hard to push the idea of the second chance and also trying to bring victims to the fore, it is very difficult for the community to see ex-offenders as anything but offenders.

“Each case is an individual case and must be looked at in that way. Depending on the crime and where it has happened, you will have a different reaction from society and family. We have seen a case where a family was forced to flee that area where they lived because their son was part of a group who murdered someone in a brutal manner. While the perpetrators were at large, the community blamed the mother for harbouring him and not taking him to the police.”

“We find that where there are platforms such as our family conferences and some of our victim-offender mediation interventions, there is generally a better level of acceptance,” she said.

Lushaba said the restorative justice programme helps to get to the root of the problem by facilitating discussions around a number of themes, including being in prison, self-esteem, assertiveness, communication and dealing with conflict.

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