Young offenders deserve a second chance

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Free State - Correctional Services Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has appealed to community members to give young offenders, who were incarcerated, a second chance.

"We all deserve a second chance in life. Once these young people have served their time, let us not repeat their sentence by turning them into social outcasts," the minister said.

Mapisa-Nqakula also appealed to the public to embrace those who had completed their sentences. "I want to take this opportunity to make an impassioned plea to family members and friends of those incarcerated to make an effort to be in touch with these young people," she said.

She said although they had offended, they still deserved to be part of society. "Yes they have offended. Yes some have hurt us in the most violent ways possible. They do remain, however, someone's son, brother, daughter, sister, mother or father."

The minister further expressed concern about the high number of young people who were in prisons. "Our data shows that the national youth offender population currently sits at about 57 620, and of this 33 946 of these offenders are un-sentenced."

She said an even worrying trend was that youth aged between 22 and 25-years-old were the ones committing the most aggressive and violent crimes, followed by economic crimes.

The minister encouraged young offenders to use their period of incarceration to further their own development, adding that this improved their chances of being integrated into society upon their release.

"My message to all the inmates in our facilities is that incarceration is not the end of the road for you. With earnest remorse, self exertion, discipline and will a whole new world of possibilities awaits you," she said.

The minister was speaking at the launch of the department's Corrections Week at the Groenpunt Youth Correctional Facility.

The department will use the week-long campaign to promote awareness and understanding of the South African correctional system.

Activities will unfold across the country and at various corrections facilities and include exhibitions, church services, outreach programmes and open days for visits to facilities.

The week will culminate in celebrating African Corrections Day on Saturday.