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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.