Ex-offender turned business women reaps reward of reintegration

Screen-Shot-2021-08-13-at-10.19.27The sky is the limit: Jackie Venter, owner of Spicy Affair Catering  prepares her daily menu. 

The responsibility of the Department of Correctional Services is not solely to keep people who have wronged the community away from the society nor take away their privileges or minimise their rights. On the contrary the core responsibility of the department is to correct offending behaviour by providing rehabilitation programmes that advance social reintegration in order to break the cycle of crime thus avoiding recidivism.

Ex-offenders benefit immensely from various rehabilitation programmes that the department provides for those in incarceration. This paves the way for offenders to be self-sustaining, and to contribute positively towards improving their communities and the economy of the country at large. In some instances they employ their fellow ex-offenders to plough back to their respective communities.

Jackie Venter, the owner of Spicy Affair Catering in Potchefstroom is one of the ex-offenders who benefited from such programmes. The 48-year-old mother of two was born and bred in Potchefstroom, North West province. After she was sentenced to thirteen years’ incarceration for an economic crime, Jackie realized it might be time to turn her life around. After serving over six years at Klerksdorp Correctional Centre, Jackie decided to go all out and start her long-life dream of being an entrepreneur; and that was when the Spicy Affair Catering Company was born.

When asked about the importance of reintegration, Jackie had this to say: “Social reintegration should first start within the family. If one feels accepted and comfortable, it is easy to accept that others will see you in the same way. Though ones value should never be based on how people perceive or react towards you, reintegration for me was easy because my mind-set was positive”. Jackie believes that it is important for one to be true to themselves and not to put much pressure on themselves; to never dwell on the past but rather try to invest time and energy in preparing for the future while preserving self-worth and integrity as a person because there is a better life after serving time.

“Through rehabilitation programmes that I received in the correctional centre I became a better person, I underwent several programmes, and my gratitude goes to Dr Karen Van den Berg (head of social services) at Klerksdorp Correctional Services. She made a huge impact in my life and as a result I subsequently facilitated self-enrichment programmes to other inmates and in the process I healed as well”.

Jackie said not forgiving oneself was the main obstacle to healing and a deterrent to rehabilitation.

Jackie drafted his intensive business plan and detailed everything on paper while she was incarcerated. Today she has five permanent and five part time employees. She also accommodates students from a chef school for their practical training. She considers this as her way of giving back to the community because she believes that if you don’t fit into your community you don’t fit into your life. Her stern warning to people who still cut corners and are involved in criminal activities was that, “crime does not only destroy the victims life but yours as well. Invest your time and energy in doing good things for yourself and your loved ones”.

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