NICRO aims to make the country a safer place

2017-06-28 06:00
NICRO PE’s team includes, at the back, from left, Lungile Ngwenya, Leilani Boyers (volunteer), Sandra Ngwenya (volunteer), Eunice Zibi, Coburn Skut, Lungiswa Veliti, Mikhail Jacobs (student) and Thamsanqa Methula. In front, from left, are Zoleka Makaka, Phumza Ntsete, Aisha Davids, Nombasa Nkonyeni and Kubashinie Coopasamy.                  Photo:ANIKA DE BEER

NICRO PE’s team includes, at the back, from left, Lungile Ngwenya, Leilani Boyers (volunteer), Sandra Ngwenya (volunteer), Eunice Zibi, Coburn Skut, Lungiswa Veliti, Mikhail Jacobs (student) and Thamsanqa Methula. In front, from left, are Zoleka Makaka, Phumza Ntsete, Aisha Davids, Nombasa Nkonyeni and Kubashinie Coopasamy. Photo:ANIKA DE BEER

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THE National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) has proven to be one of South Africa’s unsung heroes over the last 106 years.

Founded in 1910 as the South African Prisoners’ Aid Association (SPAA), the non-governmental organisation (NGO) aims to provide assistance and support services to prisoners and their families.

Today, the organisation operates on a national level and provides a wide variety of services and programmes to those in need.

NICRO operates on four main service streams, namely crime prevention, diversion, offender reintegration and non-custodial sentencing.

The biggest of the four is diversion, where NICRO attempts to channel people away from crime.

People who have committed offences like theft or assault and who take responsibility for their actions are referred to NICRO where they are assessed to see which programme would suit their needs best.

“Some of the interventions that we do are individual counselling and a restorative justice programme where domestic offence takes place. For example, we normally try to bring the families in to sort it out. If it is between two people, we have something called victim offender mediation,” said Kubashinie Coopasamy, supervisor at NICRO in PE.

Once the client has completed the programme, social workers write a report and recommend the case be closed.

“The nice thing about diversion is there is no criminal record after that,” Coopasamy said.

NICRO also offers adult life skills programmes, substance abuse programmes, anger management and ROPP, which assists people who have been arrested for driving under the influence.

The second stream, non-custodial sentencing, is aimed at individuals with a criminal record for more serious offences like robbery.

“The court might see that this person has been robbing all his life because he’s addicted to drugs and has never been helped before. The client will be sent to a social worker who will then do a thorough assessment to see that there is actually a need in the client’s life and that’s why he’s committing these offences,” Coopasamy explained.

“The social worker will motivate the court to say that rather than incarcerating the client, they let him serve his sentence outside prison by means of maybe attending a rehabilitation programme. The social worker normally monitors his progress and gives feedback to the court.”

Offender reintegration is where NICRO helps prisoners who have been granted parole to re-enter society.

“The social worker or psychologist will refer the clients they deem suitable for our programmes to us.

“We basically equip these clients to have skills when they get out of prison. Sometimes they are there for 16 or 17 years and they don’t know what is going on in the outside world. They don’t know how to deal with their friends or families,” Coopasamy said.

NICRO aims to make an impact in the community as a whole by also hosting a camp during the school holidays called Journey for learners who are high-risk in terms of criminal behaviour, as well as the Safety Ambassador’s programme, which is a leadership workshop for learners in Grade 10 to 12 from disadvantaged schools.

The NGO is currently struggling to keep itself afloat financially and, therefore, have a business side as well where clients, who are employed, pay a small fee for their respective programmes.

For example, employed clients in the ROPP programme would pay a total of R100 for the entire programme.

The 10 staff members of the Port Elizabeth office are currently trying to raise funds for stationery and a reliable vehicle.

For more info call NICRO PE on 041 582 2555.

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