Despite looking forward to rebuilding one’s life after being released from prison, many former prison convicts’ hopes are ruined by stereotypes that confine the progress of their lives.
“Society will not accept you back and finding a job is very difficult once you are released from jail.”
Those were the words of *Sophia, who was released on parole in 2012 after serving eight out of 28 years for murder.
Speaking to The Citizen at the Female Ex-Offender Entrepreneur Development event at the Kgosi Mampuru II prison on Thursday, Sophia said the programmes and skills taught in prison were not of much use in the real world.
“The challenge is, you have all these skills, but no one wants to recognise an ex-offender. Some companies are scared you will do the same things you did that landed you in jail,” she said.
Former prison inmates, correctional service representatives and businesswomen held a discussion on entrepreneurship and the challenges of employment for ex-offenders at the first event for women, organised by Still Rise in partnership with the department of correctional services (DCS).
One of the many challenges to the employment of ex-offenders and parolees is the criminal record attached to them and the lack of trust by employers, correctional service assistant director for community liaison Magata Mashifane said.
“The stigmatisation, marginalisation and social isolation of offenders often lead to reoffending and a continuation of the cycle of crime.”
She said the department partnered with Working On Fire, a government-funded job-creation programme that recruits men and women to train them on fire-management products and services.
79 former inmates were recruited since the establishment of the partnership in 2013, Mashifane said.
The department also entered into partnership with Women of Value South Africa where female parolees were trained in computer skills, receiving a monthly stipend of R1 500 for six months.
Still Rise founder Solly Mankga said it was the first time they hosted female ex-offenders since the inception of the organisation in 2013.
“We normally go to different townships and schools with male ex-offenders but this time; we felt we should give a chance to women. I am an ex-offender myself and I understand the challenges of returning to society.”
* Not her real name.