Zimbabwe jail project unlocks hope

Map of Zimbabwe

31 August 2011

Prisoners in Zimbabwe’s toughest jails are getting rehabilitation help from a Tearfund partner so they can lead crime-free lives on their release.

Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe (PFZ) provides education so prisoners can leave jail with O and A level qualifications, as well as health support, HIV awareness and food aid.

Partner staff, together with local churches, also help reintegrate former inmates back into society by reconciling them with their families and they offer ongoing support to offenders for up to two years after their release.

Convicted armed robber Joseph is among those who have benefited from the work of the PFZ.

Disowned by his family at an early age after engaging in car hijacking and robbing shops, Joseph went to prison for eight years after being caught as a member of a gang of armed robbers.

He was sent to the maximum security Chikurubi Prison and saw many fellow inmates succumb to TB and cholera and hunger, such were the grim conditions.

Church help

After serving almost half of his sentence, Joseph was transferred to Harare Central Prison, having himself contracted TB and suffered a stroke.

’l used to think that l wouldn’t complete my sentence but just die in prison,’ said Joseph.

It was at this time that he came into contact with prisoners who were members of a gospel choir under the direction of Tearfund partner PFZ. He was moved by their faith and courage in the midst of such desperate circumstances and at the same time began to notice improvements in his own health.

Joseph joined the choir and so began a process of physical and spiritual transformation that led him to turn his back on his criminal past and to resolve to make a new start when he gained his freedom.

In preparation for his release, PFZ started talks with Joseph’s family about his reconciliation with them and made contact with the local church so that it too could help him reintegrate into his old community.

When freed, PFZ continued to counsel Joseph and introduced him to the local church where he was welcomed.

Members gave him clothes worth US$100 and $72 to help him restart his life. The local pastor has taken Joseph under his wing and there are hopes he will soon have employment.