Which prison is holding you back from being a good citizen?

2017-05-18 11:08

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Isolation vs Repentance 

With recent tragedies in the news affecting celebrities and commoners, we are all reminded of how fragile life can be. Be it secondary to aggravated robberies, kidnapping or gender-based violence, it is true that some of these deaths shouldn't have occurred. That's a belief that puts aside the "right time to die" theory. No one deserves to die in a painful, ruthless manner. Even death sentence "tricks" will usually render your body lifeless swiftly. Unless if the movies I have been watching aren't portraying it correctly. Some South Africans are calling for the death sentence punishment to be reconsidered for violent criminals. I guess the important question is are prison systems serving their purpose? Are we simply isolating criminals, murderers, "caught" law-offenders and "accidental" law breakers or do we expect them to turn from their "wicked ways"?

The scale

Many people will agree that the justice system in our country seems flawed. The rich can buy their way out of anything. Some innocent lives are still being robbed of daylight delights by mob justice crews or vigilantes. Court systems will never get "the truth" because of our self-preserving human nature. The bigger problem seems to be our dark history as humanity that allowed a select few pilgrims, "chosen ones", the elite, superior or strong to destroy fellow men since the beginning of time. It seems we have a lot of skeletons as humans hanging above our doors. In a system that seeks reconciliation and begs the victims to forgive the victors and perpetrators, it is no wonder we still see modern day Robin Hoods, misguided Avengers and pseudo Freedom Fighters.

Types of Prisons

There is so much suffering in the world. It seems I like to state the obvious. Perhaps it comes with being in the medical field where I can safely say I have experienced and felt others' pain. We all turn to things that nullify the hurt for as long as possible. Some engage in physical activities to push time. Others have dream cars, jobs, houses or families to give meaning to their lives and this unpredictable existence. One common factor or mathematical constant about adults is being trapped in the adult world. We wake up, prepare for the day, labour and rest. Only a few fortunate are exempted from the routine. That is our daily prison. What if we are caught up in a unique enclosure that deviates from the status quo? Let me introduce you to prisons that can lead to self-destruction or cause harm to others.


There are always levels to doing things. Some obsession is useful to allow focus and concentration on the tasks at hand. Our hobbies may also be partly our obsessive nature pushing us towards some escape from the routine. Around loved ones, we are concerned for their safety and well being. Sometimes we worry about our looks, general appearance or material possessions. Once we start chasing after money irrespective of the consequences, it becomes clear where our priorities are. If one can frequently blast ATMs, rob others of their belongings or kill to survive, the line of healthy obsession has been crossed. In relationships, partners may be under immense pressure if the "cute" obsessive gestures of the honeymoon phase become augmented. Children may also suffer under strict parents that believe in physical punishment for disciplinary measures. In the mind of the obsessed, these actions are justified for a so-called good cause.


The first image that comes to mind when one thinks of a dependent person is that of a traditional wife raised to serve and honour one partner. Culturally speaking, some have embraced these roles and still cherish them. The potential problem in some cases is the inability to seek help or walk away when the relationship becomes toxic. Eventually, the unemployed wife, without any family or social support, becomes dependent on the husband for financial support.

I think the same can be said for some gang members who belong to a family and a group that looks after their needs. The approval by peers, a sense of belonging and being useful to a gang are no doubt some crucial attributes to a human being.

Some may argue that the poor may depend on crime or unlawful activities to survive. Others may depend on handouts or freebies. Depending on the government that you have elected shouldn't be viewed as a problem. As it stands, some are still living in abject poverty despite exercising their democratic right to chose leadership. Why should we blame them for wanting everything from the government?

In medical terms, dependence is distinguished from addiction when we discuss alcohol or drugs. One can also become dependent on caffeine, manifesting physical symptoms if they did not take any for the specified time frame. Some people seem to have a psychological dependence on crime to an extent that they seem uneasy if they don't break the law. Maybe it's the adrenaline rush that the body is dependent on; or the state of mind that comes with defiance?


We usually hear stories of drug or gambling addiction involving people selling priceless possessions. It is no surprise that some crimes are linked to these abnormal cravings. When one gets an uncontrollable urge to use or do something, does it out of compulsion or doesn't seem to care about the consequences related to the act or usage, that's addiction.

In 2015/16, an estimated 710 drug-related crimes were recorded daily on average. These include crimes of use, possession of and dealing in drugs. With limited resources and no routine drug tests in certain crimes, it will be difficult to quantify number of individuals who were under the influence of drugs during a criminal offence. One can assume that the figures are on the rise given the drug-related crimes.


How many times did you encounter an angry individual on the road today? I don't mean that "you cut me off temporary frown". I am referring to that head exploding, face flushed, fist waving, finger cursing and "I will moer you" attitude kind of anger. It's amazing how some seemingly small incidents can lead to significant law-bending acts. How many partners are suffering as a result of anger? How many children are absorbing the blows from angry teachers, parents or strangers?

Some crimes may seem petty at a glance, until we understand how much rage stirred up the situation. You can also see the link between jealousy and anger when you consider gender-based violence.

South Africans are generally an angry bunch, across different ethnic groups. We all give various reasons, ranging from crime, injustice, inequality, unfair policies, financial instability or poor service delivery.


Men are often guilty of being control freaks. Gents, it seems our masculinity is influenced by more than we know. Where do we draw the line? Do we think we can control what strangers wear in public? Or how ladies speak? Can we honestly say that we are trying to preserve good morals in society and uphold certain acceptable standards for the sake of future generations by putting our feet down? Aren't we the biggest hypocrites?

Which prison is holding you back from being a good citizen?

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