Reformed offenders must be granted leniency

Mzandile Mabaso’s hopes for a bright future came to a screeching halt as a result of his repeated failures to find jobs in various government agencies and local municipalities.

Mabaso, age 25, told Sunday World that he is in a difficult situation due to his 2016 conviction for possessing dagga when he was a university student.

Even though he has worked diligently to earn a certificate in cost and management accounting, potential companies are rejecting him due to his past background.

“I was in my third year at one of Durban’s institutions when police raided the campus and detained me and my companions for smoking marijuana.

“Thereafter, we were each given a six-month suspended sentence for possession of marijuana.”

Mabaso’s tale is not exceptional among the hundreds of rehabilitated ex-convicts who have obtained essential skills and education for the labor market but continue to wallow on the margins of unemployment.

Upon assuming office in 2019, the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola, acknowledged that despite the absence of a legislation prohibiting the employment of reformed felons in any industry, businesses were adverse to the idea.

As a method to combat recidivism, Lamola stated that his department will consider a law that would make it simpler for individuals who have completed their sentences to find employment.

“I want to leave this as my legacy because the rehabilitation of offenders is crucial for the progress of our society and economy. When they have been rehabilitated and have gained new talents, they are no longer a burden on society. Lamola stated at the time that there is a backlog in terms of erasure of criminal records.

He added that they were also considering policy measures that would facilitate the expungement of criminal records.

Lamola stated, “We can understand when it’s a sexual offense, which requires rigorous processes, but if it’s petty theft or some other crime, expunging the record shouldn’t be difficult.”

Sbu Ndebele, the former minister of correctional services and current ambassador of South Africa to India, led a mission to the United States on a study tour to examine the best worldwide techniques for dealing with ex-convicts. Ndebele observed during his tour that in nations where former convicts are reintegrated into the workforce, crime decreases.

Some enterprises in the City of New York are provided tax advantages for employing ex-offenders. According to statistics, former inmates in South Africa have a 92% likelihood of reoffending once they are released, whereas the international average is 56%.

Golden Miles Bhudu, an advocate for prisoner rights, stated that former inmates are economic captives for the remainder of their lives.

“We are in this predicament because to the blanket policy that requires ex-offenders to wait 10 years before their names are wiped. This means that a young person charged with criminally negligent murder who studies can no longer work. What other alternatives will this guy have?”

He stated that rehabilitated individuals should not be stigmatized in order to prevent a situation in which ex-offenders are driven farther into the outskirts of society and finally return to criminal activity.

»Reformed offenders must be granted leniency«

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