Keeping our young people off the streets and onto the field.

Soccer, like many other sporting and extramural activities, is a formidable medium to prompt crime prevention.  Soccer seeks to keep our young people off the streets and onto the field.  Be that as it may, crime is still rife in our communities and some of our young people find themselves entangled in such activities.  The reason as to why some of our young people enter into these unscrupulous delinquent behaviour vary due to  underlying social structural influences, like poverty, dysfunctional family institutions and in some instances, simply, peer pressure amongst other triggers.  It follows logically then to presume that a criminal offence is committed by an individual(s), but the source of this untoward behaviour could be squarely cast on the society as a whole.  It is therefore disingenuous to detach society from the individual(s) who has committed crime since both the offender and the victim are terms of the societal algebraic expression.

The department of Justice and Correctional Services has rolled out a platform that seeks to assist in obtaining restorative justice, named the victim-offender dialogue (VOD).  Through this mechanism, the offender is afforded a chance to meet the victim and have a dialogue.  The offender can come clean, explain to the victim why he did what he did and if needs be apologize. The victim on the same breadth is afforded a chance to find closure and in some cases to offload the burden of bearing a grudge by forgiving the remorseful offender.  (As in the words of Nelson Mandela, a grudge is like eating poison and expects it to kill the next person)

This indeed is a commendable effort by the government to bringing out the human in the character of the offender.  A human who can speak, who can be humble, who can feel the pain inflicted by him to his victim, a human who can admit his wrongdoing, which in turn is traction to meaningful rehabilitation.  The department of Justice and Correctional Services should really be given a pat on the back for this humane intervention.  However, more pragmatic and militant style needs to be zoomed into for sustainable solutions to prevail.  We need to break the cycle of re-offending which continues the cycle that plagues the black community since most criminal offenders are black people, courtesy and residue of the apartheid regime.  Should this cycle of re-offending be left to continue, then our young black people will be shortchanged of role models

The department of Justice and Correctional Services needs to hold an indaba on post jail term punitive measures. Criminal records masquerade as instruments to deter individuals from committing crime, yet they seem to fulfill the opposite end.

Criminal records are essential instruments in perpetuating previous offenders to re-offend.  These records make it difficult for a rehabilitated ex convict to find work in order to address his and his family’s socioeconomic needs.  An ex offender may wait up to ten years before he can apply for his criminal record to be expunged.  In the meantime, employers are not keen in welcoming these people to their fold and thus a socioeconomic crises becomes inevitable for the ex convict and so he may resort back to crime, even though he despises it and despises prison like all normal people.

In order to achieve the ambitious restorative justice, social cohesion and re-integration, an assumption that an ex offender has been rehabilitated must be held by society, the corporate and government systems alike.  A humane and structural benefit of doubt must be given to our fellow community members and thereby welcome them back and re-integrate them to be one with us.  But if the ex offender won’t enjoy the same economic opportunities like you and me dear reader, then we, as the social pact, have failed them and ourselves alike, because they will re-offend and we will, be victims over and over again, creating an environment not conducive for our young stars to thrive.

Crimes committed should be dealt with harshly and prison sentences should be handed down.  Yet coming back from prison to a hopeless life does not address the issue of crime prevention favourably.   A one size fits all approach may not be the best solution for the issue of criminal records, since I for one, hold reservations against sex offenders whom I feel have  committed the most atrocious and inhumane deed of all.  As a township community member myself, I have learned cognitively and empirically, that there is a venomous relationship between a criminal record and re-offence with regards to economic crimes.  A discussion around this issue should be amplified, for the benefit of society as a whole.

Who knows? May be our humane intervention can see us profiling a soccer team of inmates, who have since found their purpose in the beautiful game while serving their respective sentences.  Viva to HUMANITY Viva!

By: Mr. Bongani Mthimkhulu

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