Thohoyandou: South Africa needs alternative solutions to help rehabilitate offenders, says regional director for Correctional Services in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West, Alfred Tsetsane. He was addressing a regional consultative conference on the rehabilitation of offenders at the University of Venda (Univen) in Thohoyandou on Monday.
“Offenders come from communities and they will return to their communities one day. It means the community and all its organisations must assist the department in its efforts to rehabilitate offenders and to reintegrate them back into society,” said Tsetsane.
He said the department was in the process of developing unique rehabilitation programmes in partnership with Univen. “The programmes will help to change the life of offenders so that they can have a meaningful life as soon as they are released,” said Tsetsane. More than 300 delegates from civil society, Univen and the University of Limpopo attended the event. He said community organisations could offer spiritual care programmes and training to offenders.
“One of the biggest problems facing ex-offenders is the stigma associated with having been an offender. The fact is that if they are not accepted back into society and provided with opportunities to participate in the economy and community life, chances are they may revert to crime,” added Tsetsane. The two universities made presentations on education, developmental studies, public health, and psychology among others.
“We want input from professors, academics and communities on how best we can change the lives of offenders for better as soon as they are released from prison. Some ex-offenders are not accepted by their communities when they are released; we urge you to give them a second chance in life,” Tsetsane said. Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele announced this month that the department would soon embark on Victim Offender Dialogues.
The objective of the programme is to put the victim back at the centre of the corrections system, as the victim was directly affected by the criminal act of the offender. This is in line with the department’s objective of rehabilitating offenders and aiding in the process of reintegration into the community after release.
“Equally, the offender must be given an opportunity to reflect on his or her wrongs and request forgiveness,” he said at the time. The department also held the country’s first National Offender Jazz Festival at the Grootvlei Correctional Centre in the Free State on 21 October. Ndebele said music was an effective means to foster correction, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders.
The festival was aimed at rehabilitating offenders through music, group participation, and identifying offenders’ hidden talents. It gave offenders an opportunity to be part of a group, and adapt to its norms and values – in so doing, promoting respect, individual growth and self-discipline.