Youth ‘scared straight’ in prison

2015-06-09 06:01
A group of Lavender Hill teens identified as potential youth at risk visited Pollsmoor prison  as part of the “Scared Staright” initiative.

A group of Lavender Hill teens identified as potential youth at risk visited Pollsmoor prison as part of the “Scared Staright” initiative.

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Pupils from Lavender Hill Secondary School were the latest to participate in the “Scared straight” initiative.

About thirty Grade 8, 9 and 10 pupils attended the excursion to Pollsmoor prison led by the City of Cape Town’s metro police on Wednesday last week.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, says it is a partnership between the metro police and various other organisations, including the Western Cape education department and the department of correctional services.

“Our policing approach involves law enforcement, which is largely reactive and deals with existing criminal elements. However, in the last few years, we have also started focusing on more proactive crime-prevention projects aimed at helping youth at risk,” he said.

Smith says the metro police has started youth camps and does ongoing anti-drug and crime-prevention awareness programmes at schools.

The department has also implemented a “neighbourhood safety officer project” and it officially launched its youth academy earlier this year. “The Pollsmoor excursions form part of these social crime-prevention initiatives,” he says.

The “Scared straight” initiative is aimed at highlighting the realities of criminal and gang association by exposing pupils to a prison environment, but also allowing them the opportunity to interact with inmates who share their stories and life lessons.

“We have a massive challenge in many communities where young people idolise gangs and the perceived lifestyle. They are also recruited from a young age and drawn into a life of crime from which it is very difficult to escape,” he says.

Smith further says that the metro police are therefore taking a more hard-hitting approach by bringing pupils face to face with others who have walked dangerous paths. “The programme is not guaranteed to work for every single pupil whom we take through the gates at Pollsmoor, but if we make a difference in the lives of just a handful of pupils at a time, that is still worthwhile progress.”

Since the start of the project in August last year, 80 young people have been on the excursion to Pollsmoor prison

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