Prisoners share their experiences with youth

The former prisoners with the Abakhululi Prison Ministries and Jehovah Jireh Community Outreach Ministries members at Lentegeur Secondary School.

Crime doesn’t pay.

These were the words chanted by pupils and ex-inmates from Pollsmoor Prison who spoke about their lives of crime at Lentegeur Secondary School on Wednesday March 13.

Cecil Isaacs, a pastor at Jehovah Jireh Community Outreach Ministries in Lentegeur, and Michael Theunissen, 64, from Grassy Park, the founder of Abakhululi Prison Ministries partnered for the event.

“We came to tell the youth that crime doesn’t pay. We needed to bring the former prisoners to share their experiences. They were hard criminals and today they are working in prisons to teach the prisoners to turn from their ways of crime,” said Mr Isaacs.

Ringo Beukes, 50, from Grassy Park, who spent 35 years in jail, said while he had been a gang member, he had maintained his respect for his elders.

“Ek het ook gesalute maar nou is ek onder die bloed, die bloed van my God,” he said.

“You youngsters need to be taught to respect your elders and greet with respect. Today you have the opportunity to go to school and learn. Use that opportunity. In 1986 I wanted to be a gangster, I saw the big flashy cars and the high life the gangsters were living and I wanted that.”

Referring to the trend of wearing a “hangbroek”, he urged the young men to pull up their pants, learn to speak properly and learn from what was being shared by the former prisoners.

A former prisoner, Robert Young, 54, from Lavender Hill, served 12 years in prison.

Today he is a programme facilitator for prisoners, a leader in his community, musician, preacher and evangelist.

“Crime has never paid for me. If you commit the crime you must do the time. You’re not always going to get away with it. When you have to appear in court for your crimes and look behind you, it’s your mother that’s always there supporting you, loving you. Don’t put her through that, be a better person,” said Mr Young.

Leslie October, 60, from Pelican Park, served 10 years in prison and today he is a painter. He was addicted to drugs and said he had wasted his parents money who paid for his education.

“I disappointed them. I am a product of what I was, but crime doesn’t pay. Put your mind on education and your school work as many of our children’s young dreams are destroyed. It starts with you to walk the right path.”

Charles Echardt, 64, from Athlone who served 19 years in prison, added: “I grew up in a spiritual home. My late father was a pastor. My teacher always asked me what I wanted to become. I said a pastor and a builder.”

Mr Theunissen, himself a former inmate, who was released from prison * 1976 invited more schools to come on board and get involved in the initiative.