Felex Share Herald Reporter
THERE is need to support ex-prisoners as their re-integration into the society has economic and social benefits to the country, Vice-President Joice Mujuru has said.
VP Mujuru said allowing ex-convicts to return to jail was costly to the taxpayers as it drained the economy.
She made the remarks in a speech read on her behalf by Minister of State in her office Sylvester Nguni last Saturday in Harare during the launch of the 2012 Prison Outreach and Re-integration Programme.
The launch was held under the theme “Donate a Bible to a Prisoner”.
Said VP Mujuru: “The country has limited resources and offenders should not return to prison once released.
“Often prisoners and ex-offenders grapple with the issues of rejection, not only by society but their relatives as well. Society tends to label them according to the crimes they committed, thus denying them the opportunity to start life on a clean page.”
She said it was also difficult for ex-prisoners to re-enter the job market due to the stigma attached to them.
“This group therefore needs support to enable them to cope with changes in their socio-economic context for them to contribute meaningfully to society.
“Sound re-integration of prisoners into society will help to break the cycle,” she said.
Government, VP Mujuru said, will continue supporting and improving the lives of prisoners through correctional programmes.
“Our aim as Government, through the Zimbabwe Prison Service, is to ensure that all our prisons help to mould prisoners to contribute to society upon release.
“Thus, they are trained in various skills, which they can use for the development of the country. To this end, Government has, in many of our prisons, introduced skills training programmes and business lessons.”
She said a holistic approach was needed to reduce crime.
VP Mujuru urged families of ex-offenders to “care and receive” them back home.
“By so doing we help restore their dignity and self-esteem. Business could also help by employing repentant ex-prisoners so that they can make use of skills acquired in prisons.
“Society and relatives should also regularly visit inmates to encourage and support their efforts to reform,” she said.
The VP said traditional leaders, being custodians of cultural values, had a significant role to play in the reintegration of prisoners back into their rural communities.
“They should take the lead in preaching forgiveness and peace with ex-prisoners who have reformed.
“I am impressed to note that PORA has been active also in rural areas. This is indeed commendable because some organisations tend to focus on urban areas, thus leaving our rural areas where most of the people are,” she said.
PORA patron Dr Desire Sibanda said plans were under way to build a holding centre for ex-prisoners who failed to locate their relatives.
“They will undertake some farming ventures at the centre to promote self-help initiatives. We are also going to visit prisons regularly and conduct re-integration lessons and raise society’s awareness to forgive and receive repentant ex-prisoners back to their homes,” he said.
PORA, a voluntary organisation, was formed to assist with the re-integration of prisoners back to the society, based on biblical principles.