Prison journalism-Breaking the Cycle: A Journey from Incarceration to Redemption

Solitary confinement in prison. Image by

Prison Journalism: A day that changed my life forever

Wesley Leong was incarcerated at the age of 15 in 1996 at Pollsmoor Prison. He is currently part of Restore’s research and reintegration project.

Prison journalism-Breaking the Cycle: A Journey from Incarceration to Redemption

Solitary confinement in prison. Image by

Prison is no joke, and also not a new place to me either. I have been sentenced nine times and found myself a victim of repetition to the system until I found God, who saved me, allowing me to change my life around for the better. I also feel that my experience and the past life I lived could allow me to share my story. Perhaps, I can reach someone and prevent the life that I ended up caught in.

Early years and first sentence

My first time in prison was in 1996; I was 15 years of age and served two years in juvenile for vehicle theft. I was young, and the ward needed, so listening to good advice was not something I took seriously. Prison was a certain way that you must abide by, requiring more drastic mental and personal changes. I was about three months into my sentence when a confrontation involved me stabbing another inmate with a toothbrush in his shoulder, and I broke it off in him.

A Life of Violence and Punishment

I got a beating from the prison wardens and ended up in single-cell solitary confinement, to keep other inmates safe. I was not part of any gang inside at the time when I transgressed and violated prison rules. 

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: My first hours after prison

Joining the Gang: A Fateful Decision

Just before my punishment was complete and I was allowed to break into the communal section, I was approached by two 26 gangsters; they explained to me that because I stabbed a 28 gang member, my blood was due, and it was to be collected, in other words, I was in danger of being stabbed and possibly killed. Joining the 26 gang was my only option, and I pledged my allegiance by mixing my blood in the gang. I was under the impression I was safe; I was wrong. I ended up doing so much more damage to my personal being that I became a soldier and was made a defender of a prison gang, basically doing the dirty work for the gang. The blood on my hands still seems to affect me to this very day.

Haunting memories of my criminal acts

Constantly, I wash my hands and have visions of bloodstains on them. I cannot speak of the things as I will be brought to court and possibly charged on criminal charges. Bear in mind that the events explained by my story are fictional; however, the names are non-fictional to keep their identities anonymous.

Time and time again, the events that took place were completely the work of the number, and my fealty towards it is blood bound. My life revolved around blood, money, betrayal, manipulation, and all things of the devil.

Over a series of ten stories, I will not only take you to the deepest corners of my mind but put you in a mystery so you can understand what really does go down behind the walls of a prison and the number gang. 

ALSO READ: Prison journalism: My Incarceration

Should you wish to assist in the rehabilitation of former inmates and help put money into the pockets of those who have struggled to earn a living during and after incarceration, click HERE 

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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