FOR many prisoners, especially those that have spent years locked up, being released comes with a mixture of overwhelming joy and anxiety.
This is so because they often want to start over, but dona��t know how to achieve that as they would not have somewhere to live or work.
There is no doubt that life on the outside can be a huge challenge, so hard that many ex-prisoners fail at it and end up back behind bars before long.
With that in mind there is a need by both the government and private sector to work together and set up intensive programmes that help inmates and ex-convicts re-enter society and get their lives back on track.
These programmes should undoubtedly start from the time when an inmate is first incarcerated and following through to those initial hours when an ex-inmate is released and to the months that follow as they work to get their lives back on track.
Prior to their release they should also be provided with hours of classes on anger management and communication.
For an ex-offender re-entering mainstream society, finding legitimate, gainful employment is an essential step towards creating a productive new life.
And many thanks to the Zimbabwe Prisons Ministries which is run by Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services for coming up with programmes designed to facilitate and actively support re-integration and re-socialisation activities for inmates and ex-inmates.
These programmes which are facilitated by Zimbabwe Prisons Ministriesa�� pastoral arm African Correctional
Chaplains Association (AFCA) are also meant to provide pastoral care, counselling and humanitarian assistance to both inmates and ex-convicts.
Speaking during the Zimbabwe Prisons Ministriesa�� AFCA graduation ceremony last Saturday in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services Deputy Chaplain-General Gift Chirara commended the 40 pastors who graduated with Advanced Certificates in Prison Ministry saying they were now equipped with the necessary expertise to provide spiritual guidance to those who are incarcerated in Zimbabwea��s prison institutions.
He said the pastors should augment ZPCSa�� endeavours to shape offenders into responsible citizens to create a peaceful and crime-free society as well as promotingA� spiritual growthA� and economic empowerment for inmates and ex-convicts.
a�?As AFCAa��s mandate is to facilitate and actively support re-integration and re-socialisation activities and provide pastoral care, counselling and humanitarian assistance for inmates and ex-inmates you are now expected to offer exit support to released inmates, provide humanitarian assistance to inmates, ex-inmates and those affected by crime.
You are also expected to facilitate crime victim-offender reconciliation as well as the counselling of inmates and ex-inmates for their successful and sustainable re-integration,a�? he said.
The pastors underwent training in ministering, healing and deliverance in the prison context, Christian counselling in prison context, critical thinking and conflict management, restorative justice system vis-a-vis retributive justice system, leadership and management models, organisational governance and ethics among other courses.
Speaking to B-Metro on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony co-ordinator and chairman for AFCA in Bulawayo Pastor Frank Mhlanga said the programmes would deliver new ways of thinking for inmates and ex-offenders.
a�?We are committed to ensuring that all inmates and ex-convicts have access to pastoral support just as other people have access to such support. We are also committed to ensuring that our members should be able and capable of providing pastoral support to all those who want it, irrespective of their religion or beliefs.
a�?As AFCA we are building a Christian network to provide that support, initially focusing on prisons. There is a huge shortage in the provision of pastoral support for and by non-religious people in prison institutions. Ultimately thousands of prisoners and ex-convicts are benefiting from our pastoral support.
a�?When you have more people coming to show their concern and care for the inmates their behaviour gets better.
They will develop an even greater love for each other because they see some people from the outside coming in to share with them whether ita��s Bible study or motivational speaking,a�? he said.