BIRRO Chairperson, Mothei believes in second chances.
Mothei Sejakgomo is the chairman of Botswana Institute of Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Offenders (BIRRO).
He believes in forgiveness and second chances and that is why he advocates for ex-convicts to be accepted back in the society.
Sejakgomo’s dream is for BIRRO to partner with the police to fight crime as this in his opinion could bring significant results in combating crime.
BIRRO was formed 10 years ago out of a realisation that ex-convicts faced discrimination at various levels, which frustrated their reintegration into society and often led to a relapse into crime.
Voice Reporter, Onneile Setlalekgosi interviewed the determined activist about his challenges and successes so far in advocating fort he rights of the ex-con.
Q. You have worked so hard to advocate for offenders rights, please share our currents projects if any?
A. Currently, BIRRO teaches people about the courts. We teach people about investigations, some people only appear before the courts without knowing the procedures.
We are in a process of partnering with legal guard as some ex-convicts often temper with police investigations without knowledge.
Q. Why courts and investigations, what other projects do you have for Batswana in General?
A. I am looking forward to a tour of the whole country. BIRRO will venture into many trips teaching people about challenges related to court appearances and how to cope with them.
Suspects often attempt to end their lives, just to avoid appearing in court and going through the whole rigmarole, which is something that can be avoided through mentoring them on how to cope with court related stress.
Q. I understand BIRRO previously showed interest in working with the police to partner with them for carrying out investigations, what skills do you have?
A. BIRRO was formed by ex-convicts after we realised they experience some form of discrimination in communities, so it can be very easy to investigate criminals because we know how they operate, we used to be part of the group.
We know their behaviour, and we understand them better.
Q. In one of your previous interviews, you stated that prison department’s record of rehabilitation is not impressive, How so?
A. Yes, there is no community involvement; Prison security and issues of overcrowding do not allow for a conducive atmosphere for rehabilitation.
People are routinely convicted by the courts, sent to prison, and come out at the end of their sentences without being rehabilitated well. Sometimes they commit the crime again.
Q. Speaking of the suspects who commit the crime while on bail, or after sentence, what’s your take on that?
A. Change of behaviour depends on an individual and their willingness to confront their dark past and make peace with it.
That is actually what lies at the core of how to avoid going back to prison again.
Q. Do you often engage professionals in carrying out your community discussions as BIRRO?
A. Yes, but, normally we share experiences around schools.
The testimonies really bear the organisation positive results.
Q.BIRRO once took part in rehabilitating Thamaga youths in Okavango, have you yielded any positive results out of it?
A. Yes, the project later failed because of inadequate funds.
The Ministry of youth only wasted thousands of pulas on the youth only to return them home with no proper or monitoring mechanism for progress after that, and BIRRO could not continue with the project for the simple reason that we do not have the funds to do so.
Q. Please share some of BIRRO’s achievements, since it has been in existence for 10 years?
A. I can confidently tell you that we have effectively fought and reduced the stigmatisation of ex-convicts.
We are proud to note that we have some of our members who have been rehabilitated and reintegrated back into the society and into the workforce.
Q. Considering your past experiences, what happens when one is sentenced to a prison term?
A. Prison sentence only starts after conviction.
One of the most stressful moments of prison sentence happens right after the conviction process.
Reality sets in and usually an offender panics.
That’s the main reason some even attempt to run away from the court.
It is a horrible experience, one of the toughest I have ever had.
I was sent to prison for seven years…its definitely stressful!
Q. Considering that you once apologised and asked for forgiveness from people you stole from, do you feel you were forgiven, do people really trust ex-convicts?
A. Trust is a difficult thing to win back.Whenever something goes wrong a former prisoner is always a number one suspect.
It’s a permanent mark that writes off many opportunities. It works along with patience and accepting oneself.
Q. Do you honestly think ex-convicts should declare that part of their life during a job interview?
A. Yes, being honest enough about being an ex-convict is not a problem.
At BIRRO we encourage offenders to be honest enough right from the beginning, even in relationships.
Ex-convicts should be open to their partners and potential employers.
Q. What legacy would you like to leave at BIRRO?
A. I want to establish an office for BIRRO, and advocate for workshops where ex-convicts can freely practice skills they learnt from prison.
Part of my legacy is to see BIRRO led by professionals from government departments and crime victims as well.
Q. What impact has BIRRO had on the community so far?
A. We have been effective in crime reduction, especially among ex-convicts.
We would like BIRRO to intervene in court proceedings such as signing offender’s appeal, instead of the offender to locate families from far way areas, it can also save time and money.
Q. So how do you relax?
A. I like exercising a lot, it really helps to clear my mind.
Q. Let’s get personal, considering that you have been in prison for seven years, any experiences in homosexuality?
A. It is not something I am proud of, but I did experience prison sex, but it has never crossed my mind to try it again.
Q. Do you think condoms should be introduced in Prisons?
A. That’s not my decision to make so I can’t comment on that.
Q. We are approaching a weekend, where will you be Mothei?
A. I have a project I am doing in Shoshong, I will certainly be in Shoshong this weekend.