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LACAP members make moving confessions and apologies for their crimes.

On Monday August 9th, while most South Africans were still busy enjoying their long weekend, the GRCF staff found themselves on the way to prison once again.  It was Women’s Day and LACAP members – all inmates in Losperfontein Maximum who have committed to change and now spend their time trying to fight crime, poverty and gangsterism from within prison walls – had planned an event meant to increase awareness of crimes against women as well as attempt to make some sort of amends to women that had already been victims of such crimes.

The day was emotional above all else, and featured moving testimonies from both victims and perpetrators.  The three main inmate speeches came from LACAP members: Tumelo, who was sentenced to 22 years for killing his daughter; Ivan, who had a history of anger issues and was sentenced to life for having killed his wife; and Justice who had been convicted of serial rape.  While each crime is a terrible one and each of the 3 inmates now profoundly and deeply regret what they have done, they know they cannot take back their crimes and are trying to make some sort of amends through apologizing, confessing, making others aware and giving back to the community.  Each of the three cried as they testified and the honesty was startling.  Ivan admitted he had also wanted to kill himself after killing his wife, but had not had the courage. It took the help of fellow inmates for him to deal with his anger issues in order for him reach a more positive place from which he can now try to help others. For Justice, the emotion welled up when he spoke of his mother and said that he wanted to apologize especially to her as she had not raised him to be a rapist but now had to bear the burden of being a rapist’s mother.

Throughout the emotional day the LACAP members and other inmates all supported each other and the camaraderie was clearly

LACAP honours the women that help them most.

visible.  It was difficult at times to remember that these men had committed such heinous crimes as they are so courteous, friendly and genuine.  The vast majority seem gentle as well, though much of this has now come about through counselling, workshops and a lot of time to reflect.  In between the speeches there were plenty of artists and singers who also brought inspirational messages and entertainment and made the entire day a little lighter.

In attendance were many different NGOs, businesses, government representatives, community members and students, and the prison courtyard where events are normally held was completely filled with people.  We were surprised to even see the brother of deceased artist Lucky Dube, Richard, in attendance. Efforts were made to recognize the extraordinary efforts of women in fighting crime and supporting correctional reform and GRCF’s own COO Christine Delport as well as Maletlotlo Nyenye made moving speeches.  For most in attendance the event was hugely eye-opening.  To see victims and perpetrators standing side by side, displaying the courage of both apologizing and forgiving was one of the finest examples of the unlimited potential for love that we humans are capable of.

Also heartening was the abundance of support and interest in the Halfway House project that LACAP is trying so hard to get off the ground.  If we can just help them get land and funding, we are sure that it will be a huge success and will go a long way to helping reformed inmates constructively re-integrate into society and stay out of trouble.

Losper Maximum's bodybuilders carry messages highlighting women's issues.

Sometimes inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places. We are continually inspired by the LACAP members and their deep determination to set right what they had done in the past. We are also inspired by the multitudes of people that work in prisons to ensure that reform does happen and that needed help is received for positive change. We are most inspired however by the ability of victims, including some of GRCF’s own staff, to understand, forgive and open their hearts to helping those that may have hurt them in the past.


LACAP inmates dance at the Awareness Event

Last Thursday the GRCF staff went to prison once again. For a good cause, of course!  Throughout the last few months we have continued to support the LACAP project started by inmates in Losperfontein Maximum Security.  As mentioned in previous posts, the goal of LACAP (Losperfontein Anti Crime Awareness Project) is to fight crime by raising awareness with youth about why crime does not pay, helping local schools get the materials they need to give kids a proper education, and helping build a positive attitude and encourage skills development within the prison in order to prevent re-offending. The LACAP members have all done some terrible things, and although they are resigned to their sentences, they decided they could still do good and atone for what they had done from within prison walls while helping ensure that others did not make the same mistakes that they had.

One of the ways in which LACAP attempts to raise awareness is through campaigns within the prison. Through careful

GRCF COO, Christine Delport, gives the keynote speech

planning and full participation of correctional officials, the LACAP group planned one such large event for last week.  In attendance were the most at risk youth of local schools as well as students from the University of Pretoria, GRCF staff, media, local businesses and other interested parties.  There were in total about 400 people present. During the day, the inmates told stories of how they had come to be in prison and what prison life is really like.  They did not hold back on the truth, nor did they try to sugar coat it.  The inmates also performed songs and dances and did a wonderful job of acting out a play about crime.  For the students and other attendees it was a real eye opener, and a once in a lifetime experience.  Among the speakers of the day the GRCF’s own COO, Christine Delport, gave an inspirational keynote speech about the choices that we make, while GRCF staff members Maletlotlo Nyenye and Lana Lovasic gave their own personal stories and words of encouragement to the inmates who have decided to turn their lives around.

At the press conference at the end of the day Ms. Delport also announced that the GRCF will be making a donation of 6 computers to the learning center located within the prison. These computers will be for LACAP members and inmates pursuing their studies from behind prison walls, as well as for visiting students doing research at the prison. We are proud to support the LACAP members in their pursuit of atoning for their pasts and helping others steer clear of a life  of crime. It is never too late to make a difference to yourself and to others; and while we must all take responsibility for our pasts and accept the consequences of our actions, there is always hope and there is always a choice.