Prisoners praise programme

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Inmates of Durban's Westville Prison are reaping benefits from a stress-management and rehabilitation training programme at the jail.

The programme's first graduates were recently awarded their certificates. The programme is intended to help prisoners adapt to prison life, both economically and socially.

The jail introduced the programme in the hope that it would contribute to ending prison violence.

More than 25 women and 21 juveniles serving long sentences benefited from the training.

Thembi Mthembu, 41, a former teacher from Umlazi, south of Durban, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for killing her brother. She said that she had never accepted the prison environment.

"It has been hard for the past few months, especially because I am serving this sentence after my own sister framed me," she sobbed.

"The most stressful thing for me was having to leave my children and my husband.

"Attending the programme was an eye-opener. I now live a positive life."

Mthembu said the training had helped her regain her self esteem: "I'm now teaching inmates."

Brendon Ryan, 21, is serving 10 years for culpable homicide.

"I was so aggressive when I was arrested.

"But today I have a more positive outlook," he said.

He blamed himself for stabbing a stranger in Durban last year.

"I stabbed him with a bottle in self-defence. The man died. Today I am a clean man," he said.

Dingani Sadibe, the prisons' department's care-services manager, said the department had formed a partnership with the Art of Living Foundation to reduce stress among offenders.

"The programme has had positive results. Offenders are able to adapt and accept their situation."