Image via Unsplash

Prison Journalism: From isolation to family

Jonno Knowles was incarcerated in Pollsmoor Prison and participated in restorative justice while inside the prison.


Image via Unsplash

Being away from my ‘family’ is never easy. I’ve spent most of my life being pushed from pillar to post, living out of a trunk and sleeping on a sofa, using a back porch as my pillow. Consequently, the ‘festive season’ or ‘family season’ lost its significance to me. In fact, these so-called family seasons meant very little.

Coping with Detachment and Loneliness

As such, when December arrived and my excitement failed to soar, I pleaded for understanding. My life, akin to Oliver Twist’s in my version of events, revolved around simple gratitude.

Confinement and Reflection

Then I spent a considerable time within the confines and cold bars of jails and correctional facilities, without family or friends to reach out to. That phase passed like a moment in my life. Have I become so detached that none of it matters anymore? The break, the restricted movement, and the limited lines of communication, each a stark reminder that we don’t control our surroundings or circumstances. Then comes the hardest part.

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Finding a New Family

For the moment, my family consists of those around me – my friends (whatever that means) and acquaintances. They have become the bearers of good luck, well wishes, and tidings. My ‘family’ had long dismissed or perhaps never acknowledged my existence. So, it seemed my destiny was a life in a cell, perhaps even a place in hell.

December 24th

Ironically the day Europe celebrates Christmas, I was released and enjoyed many privileges. For the first time in years, I felt connected to my family. I also made a firm decision to build my own family: Louis, Stella, Dachshunds, Chris.

Embracing Life and Love 

They taught me much about life and how it should be lived. I had spent many nights crying in prison and within myself. Now outside, my tears flowed freely for the deported, the arriving, and simply for the love of life.

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Redefining Christmas: A Time for Inclusive Family

By the time I became comfortable with the idea of not spending Christmas alone, it seemed too late. I’ve been fortunate to travel extensively for Christmas. Some fellow prisoners have no family, so I decided that home is where the heart is, and so is family. We put all vendettas aside and come together as one big family during Christmas.

DISCLAIMER: Submission published as received

RESTORE is an NGO based in Cape Town, South Africa, providing inmates at Pollsmoor Prison with restorative justice opportunities.

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