Nicro still lending a helping hand after 105 years

2015-09-28 09:51

Two world wars, the invention of the motor car, the start of Apartheid and the creation of our democracy ...

These are some of the events the South African National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) has weathered while promoting reforms in the justice system.

This month Nicro celebrates its 105th birthday.

Nicro works to divert offenders from the courts so that they do not receive a criminal record and encourages non-custodial sentencing or community service as an alternative to serving a sentence in prison.

The organisation also offers prison based support to enhance an offender’s chance of successfully reintegrating back into society. These services are offered to both adults and children.

On its establishment in 1910, the primary objectives of the then South African Prisoners Aid Association involved visiting prisoners and encouraging their reform in addition to providing support for the accused, released prisoners and their family members, explains Nicro spokesperson Jacques Sibomana.

Founded by Justice Mr J de Villiers Roos, it was the first countrywide organisation of its kind for the aid and after-care of prisoners and their families.

Prior to this the Salvation Army, as part of their activities, provided accommodation for released prisoners.

Little more than a decade later the organisation elected to expand its focus by introducing crime prevention services, which included provision for the prevention of recidivism or the relapse into criminal behaviour, the study of cause of crime and recidivism in addition to public education.

The organisation also encouraged the study of causes underlying crime.

From the onset the Association lobbied for social reform, both in terms of crime prevention and the rehabilitation of offenders.

“NICRO has had a great impact and contribution to South African Criminal Justice systems, and introduced key services that have now been adopted by the Justice system,” Sibomana says.

These include the establishment of probation services, introducing diversion services to children, the Pioneered Prisoners friend services which started prison visitors as well as non-custodial sentencing.

The organisation was involved in the establishment of labour bureaus and treatment facilities for alcoholics, as well as the introduction of a scheme in terms of which accused people could pay their fines in instalments.

In 1970 the Association changed its name to Nicro.

Two decades later Nicro’s use of lobbying and social action as a tool to facilitate social change became more evident, explains Sibomana.

In 1990 the National Council released a statement lobbying for appropriate racial representation on the committee established to review the death penalty, and on 17 October 1992 Nicro officially took an abolitionist stance against the death penalty.

Currently Nicro is encouraging the public to get involved in supporting the programs that NICRO offers, through individual giving, Sibomana says.

“We are hoping to see the organisation growing strong and able to provide the much needed services in our communities. We need our communities to get involved with the work that the organisation is doing.”

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