Pollsmoor Correctional Centre lies in the valley beyond Ou Kaapseweg. It is distinctly visible from the top of the pass but not many of us enter its gates. Hope Prison Ministry (HPM) started its work there 21 years ago and has grown from humble beginnings to an effective ministry affecting the lives of those behind bars in many ways. At their last meeting of 2012 the workers of Hope (mostly volunteers) looked back on the past year with thanksgiving.

The meeting is opened by pastor Jonathan Clayton on “My thoughts are higher than your thoughts”.  (Isaiah 55, Jeremiah 29). Wonderful things have happened in Hope Prison Ministry and more wonderful things are about to happen. HPM was hailed as the best programme in the country by a recent DCS meeting. Prof  Bas from USA described the week she attended the Restorative Justice programme in Med B as “my most inspiring moments of my life”. RJ is a tool to reach offenders, staff, families, communities and also victims through mediation.

Past Jenny Clayton’s overview of work in the female section is summarised by “We visit Jesus”! The penetrating work done during the RJ courses culminated in the overwhelmingly positive outcome of the Family weekends. Home visits are important for victims and ex-offenders.

Luke Baker highlights the work with awaiting-trial girls on Mondays. Various approaches are used, e.g. clay or acting, to interact and bring messages home.

Dolly’s team of 5 for Bible Study on Wednesdays needs more workers. Different topics are discussed, e.g. drugs, prostitution, effects of crime, and movies are shown. God is with us!

Marianne’s team for flower arrangement on Tuesdays brings the good news of God’s love in a very special and beautiful way through flowers. Flowers forAfrica has provided flowers for the past 8 years. For 7 weeks each group of ladies is taught different styles. Those who would not come to formal Bible Study join this group but they get to respond to God’s love, and singing instead of harsh language is heard in the cells.

Anne and Pat tell about the Banner Making project that run over 7 weeks. Again non-churchgoers find love and compassion here. They discover that they have talents and blossom as time passes. The mother of one said she saw a different face of her daughter after many years.

In Med A Steve and Daria Mayotte’s work with the officers at Cup of Hope (having coffee together) has a very positive effect. At the early morning Praise and Prayer teaching takes place; Steve is leading studies in the Old Testament and shows videos.

On Tuesday evenings there is a Bible Study at their home. Two officers took a course in Discipleship.

Maureen started Bible Way 12 years ago with marking 20 books of the 10-studies course. It has grown so that she now collects 820 books in a year. The inmates answer the questions and one of them collects it on Wednesdays so that she can take it home for the team of Meadowridge Baptist to mark it and 6 ladies also answer letters that inmates have written.   The project was sponsored at R15000 by theMeadowridgeBaptistChurch.

Joybell (Staffmember) has a loyal team who helps with AfterCare. The monthly support groups for ex-offenders are vital in the light of difficult circumstances outside and the many temptations on their way. Joybell is herself 10 years out of prison and knows the trials well. At first only 5 women came to her house; now a big group meets in Wynberg every month. Many disappointments and a variety of feelings have to be addressed after release. She must be informed when our clients are released. Home visits sometimes are exercises in not getting lost in the communities! At the Camps that are arranged for ex-offenders serious topics and problems are mixed with the fun and laughter that is possible in a life that has been set free. The Area Commissioner visited the latest camp to see the work done “outside Pollsmoor”.

The annual High Tea for “the outside world” is a highlight and brings in much needed funds.

Handbags made by participants in the Hope Prison Ministry porgramme, Hands of Hope Project The Hands of Hope Project was started by Hansie when she realised that the women on parole faced a harsh reality without any income and they easily could revert back to profitable crime. Hansie visualised a handbag project and started collecting material in 2011 and started teaching 4 women in January 2012. In spite of initial serious problems she kept praying and experiences the miracle of not only having given the women a job for a year, but also witnessing their spiritual growth. The bags sell at R100. New marketing options could be investigated. She wants the ladies to become self-sufficient and not dependent on her initiative and organisation.

Adopt-a-Cell under the enthusiastic guidance of Willem and Monica has catered for not-sentenced boys 14 -17 years old for the past 8 years. A variety of subjects are explored: values, feelings, choices, life skills, anger, forgiveness, counselling, bitterness, trauma. A Restorative Justice course with follow-ups is presented. Boys that wear a mask of disinterest eventually ask to be prayed for.

Lindsay and Lisa work with sentenced and unsentenced often traumatised boys of 18 -21 yrs in B5. They have developed an Introduction to Restorative Justice to make the concepts more accessible for the boys. Each session is self-contained because boys are often drafted to go to other prisons. They present five 6 week-courses per year and touched 75 lives. Participation by the boys is central. Each person’s value is stressed.

Daniel Adams, Presbyterian minister from England, with his guitar demonstrates the power of music in his contact with awaiting trial youth. Because of a lot of movement from one section to another, the group changes every day. He senses that the boys find something “real” in getting together for his peacemaker programme, something deeper than “religion” that is often forced on them. Daniel feels churches should be made more aware of prison ministry.

Derryck and Zandre’s Bible Readings on Mon, Wed, Thu. have caused a mini revival.

They started reading for illiterates. Soon people fromZimbabwe,Nigeria,Malawi, DRC joined in. Good relations with officers.

Paul Jumat works with sentenced boys (17-20). He has compiled a thick file of topics!

He works on a conversational basis and listens to life stories. DRUGS destroy many lives. The boys are challenged to make decisions, but always in the spirit of Christ, entering their suffering. He is a Kingdom builder around social problems, a carrier of Hope.

Hugh Till and Dough developed their RJ course for juvenile sentenced boys and work in very practical ways to demonstrate their ability to change. They learn to watch their thoughts – words – actions – habits – character – destiny.

Irene explains matters concerning administration. 81 permits have been issued for volunteer workers of Hope.

Neva deals with Med B (sentenced men): RJ courses took place 6 times in 4 centres: Pollsmoor, Malmesbury (2x), Goodwood, Voorberg, Pollsmoor and reached 250 men. Highlights from these processes demonstrate the will to change, even from the Number gangs. The men need support. It is a pity that some of the Follow Ups could not take place.

The Bible Study in Med B is based either on the TEE courses, or other study material. One student has completed 7 courses in lay preaching after completing the other courses. Steve guides his group to become independent.

Counselling on Mon and Tues. opens opportunities for individual conversations. The outcome of such intense involvement and discipling is heartwarming when the men find new hope and move on and out of prison as witnesses of God’s love.

Apart from the above many individual cases are catered for restoring relationships with self, family and where possible, with God. A change of mindset regarding crime and its effects restores respect in the communities.

Contact number for HPM:  021 701 6081

Submitted by Lucia Oosthuysen