Prison chaplain gives inmates a voice in book about reform in SA prison system

Prison chaplain Father Babychan Arackathara has written an insightful book about what he's learned after working in prisons for nearly 20 years.

In his book, titled Light Through the Bars: Understanding and Rethinking South Africa’s Prisons, Arackathara shares stories of offenders and ex-offenders in a bid have their humanity seen.

He says many inmates in South Africa's prison system are often victims before they even become offenders.

They are victims of poverty, victims of lack of education and even abuse by their own family members.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

The vast majority of inmates come from broken homes and dysfunctional families.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

Also read: 'Death penalty will cost state millions, and does not solve crime problem'

Arackathara argues that a lack of proper rehabilitation programmes then leads to more criminal violence within prisons.

It's reported that first time offenders are 75% more likely to return to South African prisons and Arackathara believes that rehabilitation and reintegration programmes could stop that cycle.

He says officials from the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) need to change their attitudes in order to create an environment for rehabilitation and better connect with inmates.

While the government has promised interventions such as halfway homes, mother-child facilities, reading materials, many of these have still not been implemented.

The prisons are now called [correctional facilities], but are they? Or is it a university of crime.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

There needs to be much more of an attitudinal change, particularly on the part of department officials.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

Arackathara explains that social interventions are needed before at-risk people commit their first offence.

He advocates for restorative justice and human rights in prisons within the criminal justice system.

I've enjoyed being part of this ministry because I have been able to give hope to the hopeless.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

Restorative justice is about involving the victim, offender and society but criminal justice doesn't give a voice to the offender or the victim.

Father Babychan Arackathara, Author and prison chaplain

Listen to the full discussion on Upfront with Refilwe Moloto:


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