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Minister Of South Africa's Correction Services Meets With NY Groups That Help Former Prisoners

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The United States has more people in prison than any other country in the world, but one nation thinks there are some positives that can be learned from the way America helps ex-convicts. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Sibusiso Ndebele, the minister of South Africa's Correction Services, is looking for new ways to keep former inmates out of prison, especially academic alternatives.

"Imprisonment shall not be for vengeance, but for re-education," Ndebele said.

South Africa is faced with a growing prison population and not enough space to house them.

Ndebele met with staff from the Fortune Society and the College and Community Fellowship, two New York groups that help former prisoners.

The fellowship said the key is helping them get a college education.

"It makes it much more difficult for you to violate another person when you're educated, when you realize that there's common connections among all of humanity," said Vivian Nixon of the College and Community Fellowship.

The U.S. government stopped paying for college in prison 20 years ago, so the fellowship relies heavily on private donors. The South African officials were encouraged to look to outside groups for funding.

South Africa has the highest incarceration rate in Africa. A major issue is some 65,000 reported rapes and sexual offenses last year.

"It's a very heavy crime that we want to deal with and stamp it out as much as possible, and we want to get as much as experience on how other societies, how other democracies like the United States are dealing with that crime," Ndebele said. "How do you rehabilitate someone who has raped?"

The minister said that South Africa has started using a GPS tracking program to keep tabs on parolees. It's also providing academic and vocational training for all prisoners, and an unusual way for offenders to start moving back into society.

"What is called victim offender dialogue, where the offender says, 'Look, yes, I did something wrong. Yes, I want to say to this person, the victim, I am sorry," Ndebele said.

He said that's a first good step to rehabilitation.

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