Phoenix Zululand:


Restorative Justice Programme

Archive for March, 2012

Nonceba and Ida once again host a group of SIT students

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

 More photos from the progamme in the prison will be posted soon. Please come back.

A group of SIT students listen to a presentation by Nonceba the day before their programme in the Eshowe prison started.

Ida Gartrell writes as follows:


Twenty-six students from the School for International Training, and thirteen inmates from the Eshowe Women’s Correctional Centre attended a two day workshop, run by Ida Gartrell, on the 14/15th March 2012.


Using Drama, Movement, Breath, Voice and Discussion participants were taken through various processes which focussed on Identity, Stories, Choices, Leading and Following, Observation and Relationships. Finally through “Image Work” (Augusto Boal : Theatre of the Oppressed) their two-day journey allowed them to identify how they arrived at that moment. (i.e. S.I.T. students visiting a prison in Eshowe, and inmates incarcerated in Eshowe Prison.)


“Look at yourself right now and identify how you got from where you were to where you are today. I am sure there have been a series of specific steps that you have taken on your journey that have brought you to where you are at this minute. You are where you are because of yourself. It has been your choices and your decisions over the months and years that have brought you to this very moment.”


As individuals,in pairs, in small and large groups, discussions were held, games were played, physical exercises tried out and finally basic understanding was reached of their similarities and differences – the choices that set them apart, and what defined themselves as people – their humanity.


The workshop ended with an hour of delightful entertainment by both groups. My thanks to Pretty Nsibande, Thembalethu Nhlebela and Lamo Jama for assisting me.


An emotionally dramatic Family Conference

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Deputy Director Nathi Shandu and Father Meshack Vilakazi facilitated a wonderful Family Conference in a Zululand prison last week.

The group assembles, just before leaving the prison, leaving their men behind, yet hopeful that the future will be different and better.


Phoenix Facilitators are often left wondering about the qualities of reflexivity implicit in family life as revealed in the actions and statements during Family Conferences. Do people understand fully the motives they have in acting and behaving as they have? Yet the changes in thinking that happen during the conferences certainly are an indication that new understandings are reached, often with the implication that the blame, denunciation of and demands for contrition from serving prisoners are ameliorated. The causes of criminal offending often reach very deeply into the collective life of families over a long period, and so many people have come to understand this. Helping to lift some of the great load of culpability and shame is a vital part of Family Conferencing, though not to the exclusion of taking responsibility for actions on their lives by serving prisoners.


A very important lesson families take away with them from Family Conferences derives from impassioned pleas, variously expressed, that prisoners should not be forgotten by them. That is an abiding fear that almost all prisoners experience.


In some prisons, Phoenix Family Conferences occur in the heart of the prison, usually in the only space available. This prompts a large amount of varying interest from the surrounding cells. Here, in this picture, two men try to phone home during the conference for others, perhaps prompted into renewed feelings of loss by their exclusion from family life . Some spend hours watching and listening from their barred cell windows.


A non-paricipating prisoner watches a Phoenix Family Conference from a cell.

Inevitably, there are always some individuals at Family Conferences that valuably put  distinctive and unique stamps on the occasions. The Phoenix team never knows quite what to expect owing to the fact that they meet members of families for the first time at the conferences. They simply have to be so very alert to unfolding therapeatic opportunities as they emerge, and encourage these to be entrenched in memory for all those who attend the conferences.


A prisoner, unrelated to Gogo, gets a huge hug which said, in effect, "we are all part of this family gathered here today".




Family Conferences are happening continually

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Lamo Jama and Deuty Drector Nathi Shandu facilitated an extraordinarily original Family Conference last week.


Lamo – together with a Phoenix visiting artist, Annemarie Beukes – introduced the Conference by asking inmates to speak to the attending families about self-portraiture they had accomplished in the preceding weeks. It proved to be a wonderful way to get things going. Each man, as he spoke about his own artistic work, revealed things about his own past and the way he had come to think of himself, his vulnerabilities and the way he now sees unfolding opportunities, in the present and after parole. As several said, they had never tried to do anything artistic before, and this exercise served as a superb metaphor to help them understand the largest of all possible projects: the revision of their own lives in relation to their families.

It was very noticeable to Phoenix Facilitators how much members of families responded to an evidently new kind of emotional expression and way of speaking from their imprisoned members of their families. The value of this lies in our being able to show that prisoners are capable of extending ideas of what it is to find a way back to family and society after prison. It is far more that merely expressions of contrition – it goes into what it is for an ex-prisoner to be once more a creative contributor to the collective health of the communiity of family and friends.


Well done Lamo; we were all deeply moved.

The beginning of a a Family Conference: who am I?

A man speaks about how he thinks about himself as he explains his own self-portrait.

As usual, the families gathered for a group photograph after this emtional event during which we felt there had been palpable reconciliation between inmates and their families.

Families gather for a photograph before a few tears and sad goodbyes. But there was elation at the prospect of parole in the not too distant future.


As always at our Family Conferences, the Phoenix was there: a referential touchstone for all present:

Arise, once more, brightness in our lives.

[Refer to the next post.]

Nathi Shandu and Lamo Jama at the Family Conference


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