UCKG's Prison Ministry launches family support group to prepare for offenders' freedom

Freedom comes at a price, both for offenders who have served time in a correctional facility and for their families and communities who are expected to welcome them back when they are released. Without adequate preparation and support, this transition can be a very difficult time for everyone and often results in a negative outcome.
UCKG's Prison Ministry launches family support group to prepare for offenders' freedom
The UCKG Prison Ministry Group has worked with inmates at a number of correctional facilities throughout South Africa for many years, helping them to take ownership of their crime, working through the consequences and encouraging them to approach those they have wronged and apologise. This and other programmes are designed to help the rehabilitated offender return to society and make a meaningful contribution.

However, little support has been available for families of offenders who suffer grief and loss over their loved-one's actions and removal from society, as well enduring the stigma associated with having a family member incarcerated. Communities often heap guilt onto family members, compounding the challenges of the offender's return to their family and community.

Responding to this need, the UCKG Prison Ministry Group has expanded its counselling and support services, launching a support group which will meet monthly to help families of inmates cope with the personal trauma and community stigma associated with having a family member in a correctional facility and adjusting to their release. This two-pronged approach of working with both the offender and the family offers a comprehensive approach to preparing everyone involved to manage the reintegration of offenders into society.

The trauma associated with having a loved one serving a prison sentence, is often dismissed. Parents, as well as the extended family, experience a profound sense of failure and shame, but through counselling and support they can learn to deal with appropriate guilt and accept that each person makes their own choices about how to live their lives. In some cases, offenders are themselves victims of abuse but tragically no support was available when the situation began, so the cycle of abuse continued. Sometimes families do not take action when they see the first signs of anti-social behaviour for fear of losing the breadwinner. There are many reasons why a person resorts to crime and through dialogue with others in similar situations, families learn not to judge and condemn, but understand and accept. They are encouraged not to dwell on the past which cannot be changed, but work towards creating a brighter future.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God believes everyone deserves a second chance, which is the philosophy underpinning this outreach initiative. While the offender is serving their sentence, it is not always possible for family members to visit and work through issues together. The support group's purpose is to work with all parties to ensure the most effective future together. Pastors and trained volunteers from the Prison Ministry Group are committed to helping families communicate openly and honestly and find strength for new beginnings.

For further information, please contact Nametso Mofokeng at the church's public relations department on 011 224 3400 or email .

25 Apr 2012 13:38