More than 3000 prisoners are released back into society every month. Many become the bone and marrow of the illicit drug trade, the main?source of income for gangs on the Cape Flats. This film explores the stark contrasting realities of a communties' struggle?againts crime and the life choices of previously convicted prisoners?surviving in the criminal underworld.
BACKGROUND Every month, more than 3000 convicted prisoners are released back into South African society - 95% of them are expected to return back to jail. During their time of incarceration, they were inducted into organized jail gangs that skilled them in the arts of killing, robbery and gang warfare. They are then released into the community with a criminal record that further reduces their chances of rehabilitation. Many become the bone and marrow of the illicit drug trade, the main source of income for gangs and the root from where most other illegal and violent crime stem. The only legal way for citizens to fight the resulting drug related crimes plaguing their communities, is by volunteering in Neighborhood Watch structures regulated by the South African Police Service. When they join, they unknowingly enter a world regulated by conflicting forces competing for the illicit drug trade amongst the densely populated working class communities in the western Cape. Over the last few years a number of neighborhood watch volunteers have been killed during retaliation attacks. What impact does the legal systems failure to rehabilitate and reintegrate ex-convicts have on communities in South Africa? What alternative models of criminal justice are available and how effective are they in contributing to breaking the cycle of crime and violence that entire communities have become dependent on? THE FILM The journey of the film starts with a 36 year old gang leader and ex-convict who survived several attacks on his life in an ongoing gang turf war. He owns a drug operation run mostly by ex-convicts. Their gang serves a growing clientele in need of illicit commodities ranging from drugs to prostitution. The film has unobtrusive access to their activities. Over a period of a year, we experience how their choices of survival in the criminal underworld impacts on their lives. Some parts of this world are dirtier than others. A 12 year old girl gives herself for the price of a R30 packet of Chrystal meth (Tik) - young boys can be picked up for the same price. And what you can%u2019t pay in cash you can barter with stolen goods. Entry into the affected communities is through the community neighbor watch structures. Legally, they are not supposed to assault suspected criminal offenders %u2013 but they have a reputation for doing it. In the name of social justice they are caught up in their frustrations of living under the hands of drug addicts pestering every aspect of their lives with theft and violent crimes. With the neighborhood-watch members, we experience the tribulations of what it means to confront a dangerous and unforgiving enemy unarmed. The only hope for citizens and the criminals alike, is a search for alternative ways of dispensing criminal justice that can break the cycle of dependency communities have developed on crime and violence to resolve their social problems.