Pilot project for parolees

Staff Reporter

Finding a job in South Africa is hard, but when you have a criminal record it’s even harder.

So, many parolees hoping to turn their lives around after doing their time either end up on the streets or back behind bars.

But now they could soon get the break they need thanks to a pilot project between the City of Cape Town and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS).

In December last year, 10 parolees, whom the DCS had identified as being at risk, joined an Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) to provide 600 short-term jobs to street people. And they worked as street cleaners for six weeks over the festive season.

“People leaving prison can be among the most vulnerable in our society because many have been ostracised by their family and community.

“It’s hard to find work with a criminal record and it is easy to be lured back to the life that led you to prison in the first place, or to the streets,” said Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for social development and early childhood development.

“The pilot project was not long enough to do a full impact study, but the temporary financial relief made a difference in the lives of the participants, and I am eager to see how we can build on this going forward.”

Eight of the 10 parolees completed the project. Two others left it after landing permanent jobs. The group was paid the EPWP stipend and supervised daily by DCS staff. They also received counselling sessions organised by a social worker.

She said the project had given the parolees a chance to put into practice some of the skills they learnt in prison and taught them how to fit back into society and develop a strong work ethic.

One of the parolees had never held down a job and had only ever earned a living through crime, until he had been jailed.

“At the end of the programme, he indicated that he felt an increased sense of self-worth, having acquired money in an honourable manner for the first time,” said Ms Little.

She said her directorate would continue to work closely with the DCS to help more parolees.