System lets down those who have done jail time
Regarding the article "Zuma's prisoner release slammed" (June 18), I have a tale. Last Saturday at about 5pm, I stopped at the robots on the corner of Charles and Thomas Edison streets in Menlo Park, Pretoria.
A man had collapsed on the traffic island and was having an epileptic fit.
I was first to go to his aid and just held his head so it stopped hitting the ground. He had bitten his tongue but was otherwise fine, after two minutes of fitting.
His story: he had been released from prison (on the Thursday) and had no money, had not eaten and had nowhere to go. Basically, after three years of pap twice a day and rice on Sundays, he was wandering around aimlessly.
He gave me his name, Benjamin, and a run-down of his predicament . Prisoners - 1200 of them - had been released from Atteridgeville prison with just a few hour's notice and no counselling, no guidance and no plan. The last entry in his notebook was an address in Vereeniging (a halfway house, I gathered). It would cost R63 to get there, and more to get to his sister in Potchefstroom .
He was set free in an unfamiliar town with R50 in his pocket. The police told him they were not a taxi service.
Benjamin had spent his first year in jail in a wood shop, followed by two years grooming horses.
He had been imprisoned for beating up his girlfriend's lover and damaging his car - a crime of passion. This and more he told me freely in a humble manner.
Another passer-by gave him R200 and I later gave him R50 and a food parcel for the trip. He left my home and boarded a taxi for Bosman Station.
My heart went out to Benjamin and the daunting road ahead of him.
Prison is meant to rehabilitate not debilitate.