Ex-Inmate Makes Good Use of His Incarceration

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Rehabilitation efforts can produce overwhelming successes, as portrayed by a former inmate who has managed to publish a collection of poems. Engelhardt Ngatji-kare, a former inmate at the Windhoek Central Prison who was incarcerated for 10 years and six months, composed his poems whilst in prison. He said he was inspired to write by the tough times he and his former inmates faced behind bars. The poem collection is entitled “Behind the Walls”. Three of the poems, ‘Titanic’, ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Women Stand Up’ have been published internationally. Ngatjikare, released from prison in April 2006′ is now studying towards a Diploma in IT and Ministry, while undertaking other studies in Fashion and Design at Criminals Return Into Society (CRIS). Former Minister of the Prisons and Correctional Services, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, this week launched the poetry collection. He said at the launch, which coincided with a graduation ceremony of eight NDF members in computer training, that former inmates still find it hard to get employed because of their past criminal record. “Whenever a former inmate looks for work, he/she is asked if she has a criminal record and if he/she says yes, then the intended employer says ‘sorry we do not need you’,” he said. Due to such problems, ya Toivo said, ex-inmates risked re-offending in order to feed their families and could easily become jailbirds. The book was sponsored by Bank Windhoek, which is already sponsoring an Entrepreneurial and Business Skills Training Programme for inmates at Windhoek Central Prison. The pilot project started in 2003, and at present 80 inmates have completed the course which aims at helping them to start their own businesses after leaving prison. A survey conducted in February by DECOSA to determine the success of the programme, found that 71 percent of participants are integrated into the economy, while 14.7 percent are studying and five are employed. Helene Badenhorst, Bank Windhoek’s Head: Corporate Communication Services and Social Investment Manager, said 38 percent of released inmates have successfully started their own businesses in a short span after their release and also created employment for 31 full-time workers. By sponsoring the book, Badenhorst said, the bank was contributing to ensuring that former inmates integrate into society much easier. CRIS is a non-governmental organization that provides support and training to ex-inmates who have completed their prison sentences with the view to integrating them into society. Courses offered at CRIS include Basic and Advanced Computer, Business Administration, English Communication, Life Skills, Fashion and Design. The organization is the brainchild of former Deputy Minister of Prisons and Correctional Services, Michaela HÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼bschle.