Victim-Offender Dialogue (VOD) success story 

By Joey Naika

The Revd Jonathan Clayton is a Baptist Minister, living in Steenberg in the Tokai area in Cape Town. Together with his wife, Jenny, they are running a Restorative Justice Programme for the past eighteen (18) years. Their base is the Pollsmoor Prison in Tokai, but they work not only in Cape Town but nationwide and even run training workshops internationally. They have been released from pastoral ministry by the Baptist Church and now work as Chaplains for the Baptist Church. 

Their funding originally came from overseas countries, but according to Jonathan, most of their funding came from local churches, organisations and individuals who have been exposed to their work. A small percentage of their funding come from overseas nowadays. The ministry that they offer is aimed at inmates who have committed crimes through which victims were assaulted, maimed, traumatised and even killed. These offenders have already been sentenced and are serving their imprisonment term.   

Jonathan claims to have powerful stories to share, stories about prisoners who have gone through their training, who have met with their offenders and who have subsequently been released but who have NEVER returned to a life of criminality.   

He asserts that he has a group of 35 inmates of which 65% have pleaded NOT guilty in court. However, after having been exposed to their Restorative Justice programme, they have come out voluntarily to admit how cowardly they have been. They have expressed the readiness and sincere desire to meet with their victims.   

Jonathan says that they now have a new programme running over the last eighteen (18) months and engaging with inmates who have received life sentences and others, multi-life sentences. Among them are inmates who have very powerful stories to tell. They also conduct numerous other programmes and out of this, they do a lot of victim-offender dialogues.   

Jonathan further shared with me that the Department of correctional Services (DCS) advertise on billboards that they have done 95 successful V.O.D.’s between 2012-2014 over, 55 of the 95 VOD’s were conducted by him. Jonathan claims to have completed no less than thirty-three (33) VOD’s in 2014. 

It became necessary for him to send an urgent plea to DCS not to just make contact with victims, because both the victims and the offenders need to be prepared thoroughly. He stands firm in his assertion that none of the offenders with whom he had worked, had ever returned back to a life of crime. The secret behind this, he says, is how thoroughly they (V+O) have been prepared. After such thorough preparatory period the offenders feel safe and urged to come clean.  

In his counselling with the victims, he has to make sure that the victims are thoroughly prepared too, in order to meet their offenders and to know what they would like to ask them.  He says that it is important for them to know that the truth as been told by the offender, can equally be painful also and have to prepare themselves for the painful truth accordingly.

Jonathan asserts that both he and his wife Jenny travel extensively both nationally and internationally.  They are set for training workshops in the Seychelles and Australia later this year.  They also do work for the Swedish Church (Svenska Kyrkan) through Ulrica Fritzon.  She regularly sends teams from Sweden for training in South Africa. Their last team was privileged to have met with eight (8) victims through their Restorative Justice Programme.    

Revd and Mrs Jonathan and Jenny Clayton, the directors of Hope Ministries will soon be the guests of UJAMAA at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg. They will share their stories and will also be able to give first hand guidance to our institution in its endeavour to design postgraduate programmes for training in Restorative Justice and Victim-Offender Dialogue.  

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