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Prison journalism: The impact of Restorative Programs in reducing reoffending and enhancing rehabilitation

Dean Mashimbwe, a Zimbabwean migrant residing in Cape Town, was incarcerated at Pollsmoor Correctional Centre from 2016 until 2017.


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Rehabilitation programs combine multiple services. For example, a drug court program provides an individual not only with substance abuse treatment but also with individual counselling and vocational training. I participated in a number of programs during my incarceration, but one of the most important programs an inmate can undertake is RESTORATIVE JUSTICE.

The Importance of Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice views crime as an act against the victim and shifts the focus to repairing the harm committed against the victim and community. It recognizes that the offender also needs assistance and seeks to identify what changes are necessary to prevent future re-offending.

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Addressing Reoffending with Specific Programs

Programs are designed to address specific risk factors related to reoffending and to assist offenders in living in the community without offending. These offence-focused programs are therapeutic in nature, differing from training programs, and aim to help offenders develop broader social life skills. 

Benefits and Perceptions of Rehabilitation Programs

Successful completion of a program benefits an offender’s ability to progress through their custodial sentence. Completion is looked upon favourably by both the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) and the Parole Board when considering applications for release. However, some inmates don’t take these programs seriously, seeing them as a way to pass time and reduce boredom. Despite these programs, gangs still recruit members, and violence has escalated in prisons.

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The Cycle of Reincarceration and the Role of Rehabilitation

The main focus of these programs is to promote rehabilitation and reformation among inmates, but it has become routine for inmates to go in and out of prison, regardless of participating in these programs numerous times.

Efforts to Reduce Gangsterism and Improve Prison Environment

Many efforts have been made through these programs to reduce gangsterism in prisons. However, from what I observed during my time in prison, youth join gangs for protection, enjoyment, respect, money, or because a friend is in a gang. Prevention strategies in custodial establishments should limit opportunities for gangs to form and sustain themselves. These strategies should include community liaison and intelligence sharing, promoting non-criminal oriented groups, and early identification of vulnerable individuals.

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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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