Giving offenders a second chance
12 February, 2012
Ex-offender Viliame Sausauwai is welcomed home by his family after 13 years behind bars.
It has been a worldwide trend that ex-offenders re-offend and return to prison simply because they cannot adapt into their communities on completion of their sentences.
In most cases, the community rejects them outright making them feel out of place, alienated and rejected.
They are deprived of work opportunities and of a good life, because of the stigma attached with imprisonment, thus pushing them back into a life of crime.
Fiji is no exception.
This is where family and community support is needed to ensure that ex-offenders do not return to prison.
The community plays a huge role in the reintegration of ex-offenders right back to the society from where they came from.
In the final stage of its in-care programme, the Fiji Corrections Service formally hands over inmates back to the community upon completion of their terms.
The handing-over process is part and parcel of the Fiji Corrections Service’ sincere hope that offenders will not return to prison, through the continued intervention of the community into the inmates’ lives even after their release.
There is now a definite recognition by the FCS that it cannot on its own, rehabilitate inmates.
It’s a massive task that calls for a concerted effort from all concerned stakeholders and in particular, the community of which the ex-offender is a part of.
The FCS’ Yellow Ribbon project, the department’s flagship programme, is a vehicle to create awareness in giving offenders a second chance at life, generate their acceptance and that of their families back into the community and inspire appropriate community action to support their re-integration back into their midst.
An inmate is someone’s mother, father, daughter, son, nephew, niece, brother or sister – someone who merely took the wrong path, made a bad decision and found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
No one is perfect, without a doubt and everyone makes mistakes. All ex-offenders need the support of the community to be able to get on with their lives.
Just last week, the Fiji Corrections Service handed over Viliame Sausauwai back to his Naveicovatu village in Tailevu after 13 years behind bars.
It was a welcome home fit for a king when the villagers of Naveicovatu, Malabi and Wailotua converged to traditionally receive him from the Fiji Corrections Service.
The three villages comprise the Yavusa of Naloto.
Sausauwai, 58, was accompanied home by FCS officials and like any other hand-over it was an emotional one.
Officers and fellow inmates at the Nasinu Corrections Centre bid him farewell as he proceeded to board the vehicle.
Even on the long ride back home, Sausauwai sat without a word, mixed with emotions and silently marveling at the vast changes he saw unfolding before him.
Occasionally he would point out at something and admire it – he certainly missed a lot, 13 years is a long time.
Even when we stopped at Korovou, people walked up to the vehicle and greeted him.
Upon arrival at his village, his front porch was decorated with yellow ribbons, a huge ‘Welcome Home Son’ sign and a bible reference – Luke 15: 32, depicting the Parable of the Lost Son.
After all the traditional presentations, there was a huge feast afterwards and the atmosphere was purely warm.
Late last month, two inmates from the Women’s Corrections Centre were also handed over to their respective families.
Mereia Raisogo, 35, was one of them. She was returned to her Cunningham home and to her four children. What better way for her children to start the New Year than to have their mum back home after a lapse of two years.
Raisogo had served her term for larceny.
Her childrens’ faces beamed with excitement and spoke volumes of what they had missed during their mums’ incarceration.
During her term inside Raisogo was described by Correction officers as a very open person, friendly, outgoing and hard-working.
She underwent three phases of the four-phase rehabilitation framework which included discipline, behavioural enhancement and upskilling/training.
Another ex-offender Ioani Meleti Saukuru was also handed over formally last month following his release from the Minimum Corrections Centre in Naboro.
Like any other father Saukuru, 39, has the responsibility of being the head of his family and wasting away two years behind bars is a lesson he will never forget and one that has taught him well.
When FCS officials took him to his Nabua home, his family and relatives accepted him back with so much emotion. There were lots of hugs and kisses and tears flowed freely.
One would think there was a funeral going on.
The father of two definitely showed a lot of eagerness in starting afresh.
Early last month as well, former inmate Batiniqio Rasaqiwa who had been incarcerated for 10 years at the Medium Corrections Centre in Naboro was returned to his village in Navuniyaumunu in Ra.
It was an emotional moment as the whole village gathered to welcome one of their sons back home.
Rasaqiwa expressed surprise at the depth of warmth during the traditional handover and said he was genuinely sorry about the wrong he had done.
And like the love of any mother for his son, Maritina Naiula, 72, embraced him saying even if he had spent 20 years behind bars, he would always be his boy.
An embrace filled with such warm love and hospitality is what every ex-offender needs and their successful integration into the community is ultimately the best security for society.
That is in fact one of the roles of the Fiji Corrections Service - Safety and Security, where the FCS must ensure that inmates are safe and secure at our 12 Correction Centres and the community is also safe in the process.
FCS’ roles are three-fold – Safety & Security, the Humane Treatment of inmates and of course, transforming their lives for the better.
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