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Rehabilitating South Africa's ex-prisoners
For many former prisoners, life outside of prison is fraught with difficulties, including joblessness and social stigma.
Last updated: 26 Aug 2014 13:39
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Cape Town, South Africa - South Africa's prisons are notorious for high rates of HIV, overcrowding, abuse, sexual violence and gangs. About 30 percent of the 150,000 inmates currently in custody are awaiting trial, according to South Africa's Department of Correctional Services. About 360,000 move in and out of prisons, with 80 percent of them coming back to prison after being released. For most former prisoners, life outside of prison is dotted with difficulties.

"You are part of a cycle of violence, it is difficult to reintegrate, to be respected in society," says Jerry, who was recently released after serving 12 years in prison for a sexual offence and asked that only his first name be used.

They battle social stigma that hinders their reintegration, along with joblessness and poverty, rejection by family members and a lack of rehabilitation projects.

Sonke Gender Justice (Sonke) runs its Beyond the Bars project with former prisoners. "We provide former inmates with a support group, help connect them to job training and work with them to develop positive ideas around masculinity and non-violence," says Czerina Patel of Sonke.

The organisation collaborates with the Prison Care and Support Network, who provides direct services such as bursaries, job training and placement and food parcels for ex-inmates with families to feed.

"There's a lot of pressure from society and their family when they are released from prison," says Mzamo Sidelo, who is a trainer for Beyond the Bars.

"They're expected to provide for their families and when they can't find work, they will often re-offend."

Sidelo says that the support group helps ex-inmates deal with this pressure, connects them with opportunities and training that helps them re-renter the workplace, and even helps them identify other ways they can provide for their families, like helping with the house-work.


/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Alex is on daily parole. For 12 hours every day, he leaves the prison to work as an apprentice gardener at a church, two hours away. He was sentenced for 25 years and got parole at 14 for robbery and murder. Here he shows the things he is allowed to bring with him when he leaves prison every day



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Simphiwe Peter lost his left arm during a robbery for which he served nine years in prison. He says that the greatest challenges he faced in prison were the lack of treatment for HIV positive prisoners and rampant sexual violence



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

The diary of a former prisoner, the only thing he says he brought with him when he was released



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Jerry (right) served 12 years in prison for a sexual offence. Before he was sentenced, he was a ballroom dance teacher. Here, he is dancing in the Langa township with his former student, who has performed internationally. Jerry hopes to start a ballroom school one day, but currently he is volunteering as a handball coach



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Former prisoners struggle with joblessness. Here, a group of ex-inmates are working at a construction site as part of a one-year job-training programme run by the Prison Care and Support Network



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Jerry, the former prisoner and now a ballroom dance teacher, is getting tested for HIV in Cape Town in the Gugulethu township. About 26-40 percent of South Africa’s inmates are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Department of Correctional Services



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Mzamo Sidelo, (fourth from left) from Sonke, is leading a peer group meeting of former prisoners. Sidelo says the former inmates constantly share that prison life hardened them; made them feel they had to act strong, discouraging them from expressing emotions, and the only emotion they were allowed to show was aggression towards others



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

After being released from prison, Welcome (centre) started working at a community centre and runs an organisation that creates awareness about gang violence. He regrets not having a positive role model and does not want young people to "be lost" like him



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

Alex, who is on a daily parole, returns to prison after working eight hours as a gardener. Every day, he travels for two hours to reach his worksite; sometimes members of his family come to meet him there. He will be released on full parole later this year



/Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera

A group of young people being released from police custody in Cape Town. Almost 30 percent of the sentenced offender population in South Africa is between 13-25 years of age and even those who are never charged with a crime face the risk of rape or assault in cells where they are kept. Nearly 30 percent of the prison population is awaiting trial. If they cannot afford or are not granted bail, they may spend years behind bars




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images:
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captions:

Alex is on daily parole. For 12 hours every day, he leaves the prison to work as an apprentice gardener at a church, two hours away. He was sentenced for 25 years and got parole at 14 for robbery and murder. Here he shows the things he is allowed to bring with him when he leaves prison every day

;*;

Simphiwe Peter lost his left arm during a robbery for which he served nine years in prison. He says that the greatest challenges he faced in prison were the lack of treatment for HIV positive prisoners and rampant sexual violence

;*;

The diary of a former prisoner, the only thing he says he brought with him when he was released

;*;

Jerry (right) served 12 years in prison for a sexual offence. Before he was sentenced, he was a ballroom dance teacher. Here, he is dancing in the Langa township with his former student, who has performed internationally. Jerry hopes to start a ballroom school one day, but currently he is volunteering as a handball coach

;*;

Former prisoners struggle with joblessness. Here, a group of ex-inmates are working at a construction site as part of a one-year job-training programme run by the Prison Care and Support Network

;*;

Jerry, the former prisoner and now a ballroom dance teacher, is getting tested for HIV in Cape Town in the Gugulethu township. About 26-40 percent of South Africa’s inmates are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Department of Correctional Services

;*;

Mzamo Sidelo, (fourth from left) from Sonke, is leading a peer group meeting of former prisoners. Sidelo says the former inmates constantly share that prison life hardened them; made them feel they had to act strong, discouraging them from expressing emotions, and the only emotion they were allowed to show was aggression towards others

;*;

After being released from prison, Welcome (centre) started working at a community centre and runs an organisation that creates awareness about gang violence. He regrets not having a positive role model and does not want young people to "be lost" like him

;*;

Alex, who is on a daily parole, returns to prison after working eight hours as a gardener. Every day, he travels for two hours to reach his worksite; sometimes members of his family come to meet him there. He will be released on full parole later this year

;*;

A group of young people being released from police custody in Cape Town. Almost 30 percent of the sentenced offender population in South Africa is between 13-25 years of age and even those who are never charged with a crime face the risk of rape or assault in cells where they are kept. Nearly 30 percent of the prison population is awaiting trial. If they cannot afford or are not granted bail, they may spend years behind bars

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Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera;*;Bijoyeta Das/Al Jazeera
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Daylife
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