30 December 2009
By Thomo Nkgadima
Rehabilitation programmes emerge victorious when stories like that of Gert Hall inspire other offenders to change.
Gert Hall‘s story is also one in which the idea that children who grew up in stable well-to –do families don’t do crime is challenged.
Hall used to describe himself as a trouble maker. “I was a menace to society and feared by many. I was a notorious criminal who showed no mercy.” But the 47-year old, who is serving 18 years for housebreaking, theft and illegal possession of firearm has changed his life around.
He said his road to recovery began when he decided to give his life to God after having spent 13 months in solitary confinement for transgressing while being behind bars. Hall admitted that he used to be a feared gang leader in prison.
“I started to trouble the community in 1983 at the age of 18, specializing in housebreaking and theft,” he said. Yet he came from a well established Christian farming family.
According to behavioural specialist and head of social services at Baviaanspoort Medium Correctional centre of exellence, Zilla Mabaso, the white paper on Corrections recognizes that not only those from dysfunctional families engage in criminal activities.
Hall‘s attitude towards life started changing slowly when he was encouraged to undergo rehabilitation programmmes.
“I was being guided by good teachings in the life skills and anger management sessions. That helped me to become disciplined, focused and principled,” he said.
Hall changed his life dramatically when he was given an opportunity to facilitate agriculture skills training in 2003 aimed at developing offenders’ farming skills. “I took out my gangster tattoo and became an enemy to most gang members, he said.
He is now a powerful layman preacher behind bars, turning gang leaders into religious leaders. “The word of God transformed me from being a hooligan into being a reasonable human being”, he recalled.
Hall obtained a diploma in agriculture in 2006. “I decided to develop myself and be a father to my two beautiful children as well as a child to my own mother.”
The offender took a church congregation by surprise during Prison minitry at a four-day church service hosted by Pastors of Maranatha Church of Christ from Hatfield, Pretoria, when he reconciled with the policeman who arrested him years ago. He also supported the establishment and formation of a church called Christ the only hope in Prison at Baviaanspoort. “Prison is not a good place to be, but it changed my life for good,” Reformed Hall concluded.