Life depicts art

Palesa ‘Deejay’ Manaleng
Shawshank Redemption is a movie about a young banker, known as Andy Dufresne whose life changes when he’s convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of his wife and her lover. Andy is sent to Shawshank prison, he claims h’s innocent at all times but no one believes him, after all everyone in prison is “innocent”.
During his first two years Andy works in the prison laundry, attracting attention from the “sisters”, a group of prisoners who sexually assault other prisoners. Andy persistently resists and fights them, but he’s beaten and raped on a regular basis.
Andy accepts his fate until a young prisoner named Tommy, lands up in Shawshank. Tommy hears about Andy’s case and tells Andy about a cellmate he had in another prison- who boasted about killing a pro golfer, along with his lover and how the woman’s husband landed in prison for the murders.
This movie gets you sitting at the edge of your seat at times, scared, teary eyed, disgusted and even angry, when the credits go up, naturally you forget about it and you tell yourself that it’s just a movie. Innocent people don’t land up in prison.
The sad truth is that for a lot of people, who are incarcerated in prisons around the world, this is not a movie but their life story. Innocent people do spend years in prison serving time, for a crime they did not commit.
Here are a few real life stories of people who wasted away in prison for years, this is not a movie trailer:
Free State welder Tshokolo Mokoena, a father spent almost two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. He and his friend, Fusi Mofokeng were wrongfully arrested in April 1992, and they spent 19 years in prison. They were accused of taking part in a shoot-out between an ANC Self-Defence Unit and the Bethlehem police and were convicted of murder and armed robbery under the notorious doctrine of “common purpose”.
The story of Henry James, who spent 30 years in Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison, on a life sentence without parole for rape. At the trial the prosecutor failed to tell the jury that DNA evidence excluded James as the perpetrator.
A Chinese man, who served 17 years in prison for killing his wife, was declared innocent in the country’s wrongful conviction case. Yu Yingsheng was freed after an appeals court in the Eastern Province of Anhui ruled the evidence had been inadequate for a guilty verdict.
There are many injustices within the justice system, again this is not a trailer. What majority of us, read about in novels and watch in action movies, to the Andy Dufresne’s out there, is reality.


About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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