13 June 2019

South Africa: Beyond Crime - No Child Is Born a Criminal - the View From the Broken World Behind the Prison Walls


Crime is often a reflection of the failures of society and state: To provide basic care and nurturing from infancy through childhood, decent education, adequate housing and medical attention, robust and ethical communities, recreational opportunities. So it makes little sense to absolve ourselves of any responsibility to support an offender's reintegration into the community, writes Father Babychan Arackathara in the introduction to his book, 'Light Through the Bars: Understanding and Rethinking South Africa's Prisons'.

For 20 years, prisoners and ex-prisoners in southern Africa have shared their stories with me, trusting me, in my role as a priest and prison chaplain, with their most personal experiences. This has shown me with brutal clarity how broken the world we live in really is.

No child is born a criminal. Yet the environment in which he or she grows to adulthood can be so dysfunctional and distorting that it twists the soul. Seeking belonging and comfort, and all too often trying and failing to recover from trauma, young people turn to unhealthy peer groups, and sometimes even gangs and drugs. From there, it's a short step to crime.

Those of us who have not committed a serious crime have often been fortunate: We...

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