Support for parolees comes home

2017-08-01 06:00
From left are Gavin Joachim, director of Shawco, Helen Jacobs, ward councillor, Gerrit Fielies of the department of correctional services, and Dawn Leedenberg, founder of a project to bring parolee services to the area, signing a memorandum of understanding.

From left are Gavin Joachim, director of Shawco, Helen Jacobs, ward councillor, Gerrit Fielies of the department of correctional services, and Dawn Leedenberg, founder of a project to bring parolee services to the area, signing a memorandum of understanding.

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A memorandum of understanding has been signed in support of a new project aimed at helping families of parolees from Kensington and Factreton.

The Shawco organisation, the local ward councillor and officials of the department of correctional services committed to providing these services, with Shawco offering a space to conduct workshops and counselling. The City of Cape Town is expected to make sure the families and former prisoners have access to basic services. Correctional services will educate the families and parolees about the rules of being on parole.

This project is expected to be launched in Factreton and Kensington next month, specifically because the suburbs have a history of gang violence and abuse.

It is reported that prisoners who are later released to their communities often face rejection and other social challenges, including unemployment.

The founder of the project, Dawn Leedenberg, says the project will help families understand how parole works and improve the relationship between the families and the parolees.

She says she has discovered that in most circumstances there is a gap between the parties, which sometimes result in the former prisoner feeling unwanted and useless in the community.

She says because of this negative response the parolees may commit a crime and get sent to jail again.

Leedenberg says this can be prevented simply through acceptance and support.

Gavin Joachi, director of Shawco, says in signing the agreement they confirm they have heard the outcry by community members and their requests for intervention in stopping the growing crime rate.

Correctional services department spokesperson Simphiwe Xako says: “Correctional services believes that corrections is a societal responsibility. The social reintegration section – our community corrections office – has signed a memorandum of understanding with Shawco with the aim to render more effective service delivery programmes in the area of Factreton and Kensington.

“Correctional services had the opportunity to establish a service point in this area, meaning we are now able to place an official closer to the community to monitor parolees and probationers more effectively.

“This opportunity comes with several benefits. Firstly, it will reduce travelling costs incurred by the family of the parolee to our Cape Town office and back. Secondly, it also means that correctional services has an opportunity to be more visible in this community.”

Former prisoners who commit crimes again are one of the most important contributors to the criminal environment, according to the crime statistics of 2015/2016, Xako says.

Xako also explains that by establishing this service point in partnership with Shawco they aim to give a more effective service delivery programme to parolees and probationers in the area.

Asked whether the ongoing gang violence in these communities and Cape Town at large has had an impact inside the prisons, Xako says the department has adopted an anti-gang management strategy in prisons.

He says many gains were made to curb and prevent gang-related incidents in prisons.

Ward councillor Helen Jacobs says the vision and mission of this project is to help parolees, as well as to strengthen families, improve the reintegration of the parolee into the community and develop their skills obtained in prison.

She also says the signing of the agreement was necessary to build a relationship between these roleplayers to work together in the community.

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