Manager, Sev Simwinga explaining about how difficult it can be for some men to remain out of prison
Several years ago a prisoner whose release was imminent approached me and said “Mister, what can I do to stay in ‘jail’ a little while longer?” I was a Corrections Officer at the time, and it was the first time I confronted this phenomenon. Flabbergasted and confused by what I thought was a nonsensical question I looked straight into his eyes and said “why would you want to stay in prison even a day longer… aren’t you looking forward to going home?” The response I got from him was most sobering. “I know I should be but, honestly, I am not” adding “I am afraid mister… I am afraid I will not cope with life on the outside” At loss for words I wondered what had gotten into him to justify this retrogressive thinking. Noticing my genuine ignorance of his reality, he graciously enlightened me.
“Mister” he said “in here I don’t have to budget, go to the supermarket or cook. In here I don’t worry about laundry or bills, what time I need to sleep and when to wake up, when to shower and when to eat…I am not equipped or ready to suddenly take on that level of responsibility”
The same narrative was replicated several years later when I had become a Probation Officer. A colleague received a call from a man on her caseload. The telephone conversation went along the lines of “thank you for being a good PO but I just can’t
do this…it’s too hard…. I am standing in front of a bank and I am just about to go in and stage a robbery – I won’t harm anyone I just want to go back to jail” I later accompanied my colleague to help dissuade him from jeopardising his freedom.
I share these stories to highlight how extremely susceptible some of the men are to the spell-binding grip of the revolving door of the Justice system. Changing that mindset puts the men on the course to reclaiming their ‘mana’ and community acceptance. However, the mindset change can be a painstakingly slow process and sometimes a life-long commitment. The environment which enables this to happen is one which