"So you know it was a little bit hard for me at first when I came out because why I had to again adapt to society outside, and then you know the pressure was starting to get very tempting and heavy where I was getting comments at home like, "What you gonna do with yourself? Are you gonna lay like this? Are you again just gonna waste yourself like this and just go back to your old ways?" " (Merlin - Parolee)
(Excerpt from 2021 School Tour - Life Decisions)
Mother: Jirrre you laying here like you on holiday. You had 2 year’s holiday in prison."
Son: "Yoh mommy. I am looking for work."
These quotes/scenarios are typical illustrations of the challenges faced by parolees/ex offenders upon release. They are expected to immediately take up the work mantle and become contributing household members. That's because it's so easy. You've been on holiday for the duration of your sentence, whilst your family supported you and/or your children. It's payback time. You can just walk into the workplace of your choice, unskilled but obviously willing and say," Sir, I've just come out of prison and I need a job please. You can trust me. My parole officer and the warden who is my friend, will give me references." And your prospective employee, being the good citizen that he is, ignores the thousands of other, skilled applicants, who do not have criminal records and employs you immediately.
Recidivism is a scourge prevalent in our communities, due to the huge gap between family and societal expectations of the ex offender and the actual reality that they face. More than 60% of South Africa's youth, aged between 18 and 35 and more than 40% of its older citizens, are currently unemployed. So what chance do skilled and unskilled ex offenders have of finding employment? The pressure placed on the ex offender to find employment, combined with the guilt of not being able to meet familial expectations, depression and low self-esteem, more often than not leads to crime and the inevitable "revolving door" syndrome.
And this is where the Second Chance Project has become a lifeline for its members and a beacon of hope for inmates, prior to their release. The project not only provides employment for parolees but also opens doors of opportunity, by upskilling and training its members so that they are able to successfully reintegrate back into their communities.