Life lessons from behind bars

Monday, June 18, 2018

By Gaopalelwe Sebeela 

Inmates from Emthonjeni Juvenile Centre in Mpumalanga have spent a day with local scholars as part of an initiative to dissuade youth from getting involved in crime.

The engagement, which was held on the eve of Youth Day, was organised by the Judicial Inspectorate for Correctional Services (JICS) and Department of Correctional Services (DCS)  as part of Youth Month activities.

The juveniles helped to debunk several myths of prison life and create awareness by encouraging the youth of South Africa to focus on their education and to stay away from criminal activities.

“This provides an opportunity for growth and development and opens the doors to facilitate the journey of healing,” Inspecting Judge Johann van der Westhuizen said at the event.

The JICS  believes that when society invests in the future of youth, they help to restore the pride and dignity of all. In return, this will help to motivate offenders to become law-abiding and productive citizens.

“The JICS mandate aligns itself to the dignity of all inmates and believes that providing opportunities for quality education within a correctional environment goes a long way to help restore the dignity of inmates and assists all to become future contributors of our society,” said the JICS. 

Breaking vicious cycles with education

The JICS believes education can help with the recovery and protection of juveniles. It can be used as a tool to rehabilitate, which helps to give many juveniles hope for a better future.  

“According to the Correctional Services Act no.111 of 1998 (CSA), a child is defined as a person under the age of 18. Section 19 (1) (a) of the act stipulates that every inmate, who is a child and is subject to compulsory education, must attend and have access to such education programmes.” 

Since the inception of formal education in DCS in 2007, with one school and 21 enrolled inmates, Correctional Services currently has 14 schools and has for the past consecutive three years surpassed the national average matric pass rate of 70%. DCS recorded a matric pass rate of 76.7% in the 2017 academic year. 

The JICS would like juveniles to be reintegrated into communities after serving their sentences, where they can contribute to the good of society. This is why Correctional Services and JICS place so much emphasis on education to give juveniles a better chance in life after incarceration.

The JICS believes juveniles are at an age where it is possible for them to respond positively to corrections. 

“An endeavour must be made by society to embrace them back into communities and assist them to reintegrate in a meaningful way. We all have a part to play in society and it must start with us, or future generations will all end up here, with nothing to look forward to or hope for,” Van der Westhuizen said. –