Our President is calling for harsher sentences but yet those who are committing heinous acts of violence, are the product of a society that live in our own backyard.  In numerous recent publications of victimology, it has become evident that the victim becomes a victimiser perpetuating the never ending downward spiral of crime and violence.  Unless this gets tackled at the heart of families, communities and government, our crime rate will never fall and our prisons will be filled to capacity, with opportunities of any form of restoration being denied to those who are products of their own desperate circumstances.

Don’t ask any offender “What did you do?” but “What happened to you?”  This was a lifetime lesson I learnt the first time I personally became engaged with young offenders when Khulisa implemented South Africa’s first rehabilitation programme at Leeuwkop Prison in 1997.

Without understanding the causal factors of why offenders have committed crime, no matter how harsh the sentence is, the years of violent learning will never be unlearned.  Without understanding the causal factors of violent behaviour and dealing with them from a therapeutic point of view, South Africa will continue to breed a tribe of criminals who are oblivious to consequences of their actions.

The offenders that I, Lesley Ann van Selm, Founder of Khulisa Social Solutions, originally Khulisa Crime Prevention Initiative, have maintained contact with since our inception, have kept in regular contact with me.  To date I’ve made contact with 16 of the original group of 22.  All of them are gainfully employed, have set up their own NGOs or micro enterprises and others highly successful entrepreneurs.

Whilst punitive measures need to be unquestionably meted out in accordance with the crimes committed and the total lack of emotional intelligence demonstrated during the trial, without effective opportunities for dialogue and relative behavioural change programmes, reintegration will never be effective, at the extreme end of the scale whilst with so many young criminals entering the justice system, there are unquestionably measures that can be put in place to consequentially address their wrongdoing, whilst saving the State billions of Rands by processing them through the criminal justice system.

Since Khulisa’s inception programmes relevant to offender reintegration, mentoring, behaviour change, give back programmes, victim empowerment, the establishment of peer support groups, have demonstrated irrefutably that providing purpose to young people who live lives devoid of stimulation, parental care, adequate relevant sporting activities and a failing education system.  Compounded by this is the as yet unclosed chapter of apartheid, which have not only inculcated violence and hatred towards the oppressor but also with the era of a new democracy, promises for addressing adequate basic needs, which today remain unmet.

For further information contact Lesley Ann van Selm, Managing Director Khulisa Social Solutions – lesleyann@khulisa.org.za