Nearly half of KwaZulu-Natal households are unwilling to welcome former convicts back into their communities, new data by Statistics South Africa has revealed.Former convicts would also experience difficulty gaining employment, with some 56% of households unwilling to employ former convicts.The recent Victim of Crimes survey found KZN was behind only the Western Cape in terms of provinces least likely to be welcoming toward former convicts.The report said 50,3% of KZN households would be willing to welcome convicts back into society — nearly nine percentage points lower than the national average.Likewise, 44,4% of households reported to be willing to give ex-convicts employment — almost eight percentage points lower than the national average.KZN also scored second lowest — behind Limpopo — in terms of the number of households that believed the length of sentencing for violent crimes was long enough to discourage criminal acts.Criminal justice lecturer at the University of Cape Town Jameelah Omar said the statistics highlighted the fact that the public at large does not believe criminals are adequately punished for their crimes.She said the public places a priority on the question of punishment rather than the one of rehabilitation.“There are myths about the justice system. One is that sentences are too lenient, another is that sentences are not long enough.“The [public has the] idea that even after the person has served their term, they have not changed. Part of it is about rehabilitation, but the basic issue is that [people believe criminals] need to be punished more.”She said that negative beliefs about former convicts might be what fuels the unwillingness to employ them.“This is more of a human issue than a legal one; there is nothing the law can do to change that belief. The only answer is educating the public.”Omar said a possible solution to this problem could lie in increasing effectiveness of rehabilitation and reintegration programmes for former convicts.“Programmes like anger management and alcohol abuse could help former convicts cope with reintegration. Former convicts do not know what happens to them when they come out and how to go about living an ordinary life again. They won’t just automatically fall back into a normal life.”Omar said the public needs to be educated more on these issues.She added that the public’s other perception of prison being a comfortable place was also a concern.“People say ‘prison is like Holiday Inn’, and it is nothing like that. But if people really do think there is a better life inside prison than outside prison then it shows that we have a big problem facing poor people.”Elsewhere, the report found that 37,2% of KZN households perceived courts as being too lenient with perpetrators of crime, and 20,5% felt that matters dragged on in court for too long.It also said that 64,6% of households nationally felt that prisons “provided comfort to prisoners”, and 53,9% saw prisons as “just a college for crooks”.