Former Criminals Need to Be Assisted

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK Because crime is a serious national and economic problem, organizations such as Criminals Return Into Society (CRIS) need to be encouraged to give hope to offenders and to empower them so as not to get involved in crime again. This was said during the CRIS-Day at the former RÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¶ssing Foundation Centre in Khomasdal by the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Netumbo Nandi-Ndwaitwah, who was the guest speaker. Former offenders studying at the Centre were issued with certificates for work done over the year. Diplomats and their spouses from various foreign embassies attended the event. “The reality of our situation is the fact that we have some members of our society who find themselves in conflict with the law and end up in prison. What happens within the prison system is a critical part of our fight against crime. As such, these programmes such as CRIS should be encouraged in their work to help rehabilitate offenders,” said Nandi-Ndaitwah. She alluded to the fact that the country has, under the Constitution, moved away from the apartheid years in which inmates were inhumanely treated. “This move must not be seen as a way of condoning crime, but it is because we respect human dignity and every member of our society is expected to act the same. A programme such as CRIS will go a long way to reinforcing a sense of responsibility among our people in general, and offenders in particular,” she encouraged. In her opinion, it is very important that a culture be created that motivates offenders to become law-abiding and productive citizens. “Their reintegration back into the community with a positive attitude towards themselves and others will enable them to contribute to the development of the country, taking into consideration that a number of youth find themselves on the other side of the law,” the minister said. She went on moralizing about the justification of punishment for those who transgress the law. “If one adopts a positive attitude, imprisonment can also become a starting point for development and a process of healing. Personally, I have deep contempt for any criminal activity and I am aware that there is much to fear – pain and suffering caused by crime in our country. However, ex-inmates have a chance to change the community’s attitude towards them; they can give the nation surprises with positive actions,” she said. “As a nation, we cannot tolerate crime but, at the same time, we cannot ignore offenders. They are part and parcel of our society’s problem and, together with them, we can fight crime. They are human beings, our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, who have disappointed us. But surely they have the right to change and unlock their potential to better themselves,” she asserted. The event was the fifth certificate handing-over ceremony of some 4ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 former prisoners who are presently studying with CRIS. CRIS is ready to restore the harmony of the Namibian society by engaging human resources into productive actions that will contribute to national development plans and Vision 2030. “I know the concept of correctional services was introduced only recently. I hope the next step will be community-based correctional services, and ultimately criminal-based correctional services. This will engage the ‘criminals’ and communities in jointly establishing safe neighbourhoods, but will ensure that the hardcore criminals are isolated. We need to develop caring neighbourhoods and engage in actions that cater for the needs of others to build human walls of security,” said tutor, Sandi Tjaronda, on behalf of the staff at the event.