Restoring hope in the lives of young ex-offenders

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Restoring hope in the lives of young ex-offenders

The purpose of the correctional system in South Africa is not punishment, but the protection of the public, promotion of social responsibility, and the enhancement of human development to prevent repeats of crime”. When offenders are released into society, they face several challenges as well as the stigma of having been imprisoned.

Offenders attend a variety of rehabilitation programs while in prison, but upon their release, this rehabilitation is often not sustained. The priority for the offenders inside prison is rehabilitation, whereas outside in the community at large it is survival.

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When offenders are released back into society, they face a range of challenges such as lack of support and the stigma of having been imprisoned. Society is reluctant to receive perpetrators back into the community.

As a youth development institution, Southern Africa Youth Project has also realized the challenges faced by young ex-offenders, especially when they are released from prisons. Most of them find it hard to reintegrate back into society. Most are not accepted by the community and their families and this puts them at the risk of going back to the life of crime.

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Southern Africa Youth Project in partnership with Integration Centres in Lithuania and three other organizations from Peru and Vietnam through Erasmus+, co-funded by European Union has introduced a project called “Second Chance” with the aim of re-integrating young ex-offenders and youth at risk back into society. The project is also focused on creating awareness about the stigma that young ex-offender, especially people that have been to prison face when they return to their communities.

The second chance project advocates for the re-integration of young ex-offenders back into society, by providing a platform for them to actively participate in economic activities. The project fosters for them to participate in social programs, access employment opportunities as well as establish motivational programs to help guide the youth not to make the same mistake of resorting to illegal activities to earn a living.

Our Second Chance Project is implemented in collaboration with three partner organizations from three countries, hosting culture exchange seminars to develop and develop new methods of reintegrating young ex-offenders back into society.

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In implementing the Second Chance project, we learned that people within prison have access to more and better practical training programs, and if it weren’t for criminal records, they would be able to get sustainable jobs and make a living for themselves and their families. The best way for ex-offenders to reintegrate back into society is through volunteering in Community Based Organisations and by becoming motivational speakers, some even establish their NPOs to support vulnerable youth and help them make informed life decisions than to resort to the life of crime.

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Members of Southern Africa Youth Project traveled to three countries attending training seminars, whilst learning new methodologies towards addressing issues affecting young ex-offenders. We also hosted participants from Peru, Lithuania as well as Vietnam on a nine-day seminar to introduce methods used by Southern Africa Youth Project. This is how we “change the way the youth think about themselves”.

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