Life after prison: reintegration into society

OBSTACLES … For many ex-offenders, the transition from prison to society is fraught with obstacles like employment discrimination and societal stigma, while the lack of a support system can make reintegration a daunting task.Photo: Contributed

In a world that often judges people by their mistakes, stories of redemption and resilience still emerge.

The transformative journeys of ex-offenders, who against all odds not only rebuilt their lives after serving their time, but also embraced entrepreneurship, are rewriting the narrative.

Former inmate Kain McNab, charged with murder and theft and sentenced to 28 years imprisonment in 1999, says the moment of realisation hit him as he sat in the courtyard observing his fellow inmates – when he realised he didn’t want his life to continue down this road.

Speaking to The Namibian recently, McNab said he started attending sermons in the prison and found God.

“The first time you get taken in, you look at the people around you and see how others are living and realise that it’s not worth it. So while I was in prison, I started attending church,” he said.

After his release from prison, he said he realised the world was far ahead of him.

For many ex-offenders, the transition from prison to society is fraught with obstacles like employment discrimination and societal stigma, while the lack of a support system can make reintegration a daunting task.

Yet McNab’s story shows that a second chance at life is possible. He said his time in prison allowed him to learn welding through a programme initiated by Namibia’s first lady Monica Geingos.

He said the first lady visited them and sat with them, encouraging them to better their lives after their time in prison.

Through hard work, McNab managed to get N$4 000 from the Office of the First Lady to attend a course on money management.

After the course, he obtained material to start working on trailers, but McNab said it was not easy to find his feet.

“She (Geingos) told me to go buy what I need and I started working on trailers, but it was very tough, because there are people out there who have been welding… I tried and tried, until Covid-19 came,” McNab said.

He said visits from family and friends while he was in prison showed him that there was always a second chance. He advised young people to take the good and bad, and build on that.

He also urged young people to always follow God’s path.

“There are things in this life that must happen, but what we need to focus on is the good and the path God has for you,” McNab said.

Laurentia Nowases, a beneficiary of the Women At Work initiative that teaches basic employability skills to parolees, recently told Desert Radio the programme made her feel like there was hope for her after prison.

Nowases, who is currently learning needle work in the programme, said it opened doors she didn’t think would open after her time in prison.

“When I was released 10 years ago, life was tough and I tried and questioned what I would do with myself and then God opened this door for me,” she said.

In the ever-evolving landscape of criminal justice reform, these stories serve as a powerful testament to the potential for positive change, not only in the lives of individuals, but also in the collective consciousness of a society willing to embrace second chances.

Incarceration, often viewed as a period of punishment, can also serve as an unexpected incubator for the entrepreneurial spirit. In prison, individuals like McNab and Nowases have found creative ways to hone their skills, develop resilience and cultivate a mindset focused on self-improvement.

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