NICRO projects aim to encourage people to move from being victims of circumstance to creators of opportunity. Approximately 240 staff and close to 600 volunteers offer services in nine South African provinces. The four NICRO projects are offered by teams in urban, peri-urban and rural areas. The policies of restorative justice and people-centred development guide the services.
From Victims to Victory, a community victim support projects for people affected by crime. This project assists victims of crime and witnesses by running over 40 victim support centres or witness support centres nationwide and by training people who work with victims of crime.
Trained NICRO workers and community volunteers offer a supportive service to people affected by crime. Through the project, NICRO offers victim support services at police stations, at magistrates' courts, at community centres and at its offices. Workers are available to assist schools and other community groups on request.
Make a Fresh Start, an offender reintegration projects. This project encourages ex-offenders to create opportunities for themselves and step-by-step help to reintegrate successfully. Families of offenders are also helped, and there are some special services for those who are presently serving a prison term. Services available to the prisoners or ex-offenders are the Tough Enough project, the Esther Lategan Study Fund for Prisoners and their children, the NICRO Creative Arts Awards for Prison Art.
- The Tough Enough Programme: This nine- to twelve-month programme asks prisoners, while they are still in prison, whether they are tough enough to undertake the challenge of living a constructive life. Prisoners enter the programme voluntarily and have to commit to the process. They are encouraged to take responsibility for their lives and create a better future for themselves and their families. A NICRO worker works closely with the offender and his or her family or community to resolve the complex problems of reintegrating into society, and will encourage the family and community to create an environment that is conducive to achieving the goals that the tough enough participant has set. The person chooses to enter into a contract with NICRO which lays out responsibilities on both sides, and states that full commitment is required for the duration of the programme. Where possible, the participant is assigned a mentor. In addition the programme offers economic opportunities and other skills training.
- The Esther Lategan Study Fund for prisoners: NICRO offers prisoners the opportunity to study while in prison through the Esther Lategan Study Fund for prisoners. NICRO workers assist prisoners to apply for the fund.
- The NICRO Creative Arts Awards for Prison Art: The arts programme offers the prisoners an opportunity to unleash their creativity and express themselves through art. The competition is open to all prisoners in the following categories: painting, fabric painting, matchstick construction, recycling, calligraphy, wood crafting, leatherwork, needlework and poetry and prose.
Have your slice of the cake, an economic opportunities project (EOP). The EOP assists those who want to start or improve their own businesses and ensure that they are sustainable. It provides non-financial support, including business awareness and support workshops. "The EOP does not offer quick fix solutions but helps prisoners to turn their business ideas into success stories. A particular focus is those people who have had difficulty making a living in the past."
NICRO says many of the people who make use of the EOP are ex-offenders, families of offenders, victims of crime and young people who have been through the NICRO diversion programmes. "EOP offers people the skill to be self-sustaining, to become an entrepreneur."
Youth At Risk a diversion for young offenders and youth development. The diversion programme is offered as an alternative way of dealing with young people's offending behaviour. In the programme the young person is diverted away from the criminal justice system into a programme that makes him or her accountable for their actions. The diversion programmes are for young people in conflict with the law, with most participants being referred by a prosecutor. The case is withdrawn on condition that the young person completes the diversion programme. Participants in the programme are between the ages 14 and 18. The programme aims to:
- develop young people's potential
- make young offenders accountable for their actions
- encourage them to heal the damage they have caused
- make them commit their free time to learning a new way of life
- assist participants to map a constructive and healthy life with the assistance of those closest to them
A special programme is drawn up for each participant and usually includes:
- Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES)
YES is a life-skills training programme that usually runs for six to eight sessions and assists the participants to take stock of their lives. It puts a brake on "going off the rails". Parents or guardians are invited to participate and are encouraged to support the progress of the participants.
- Pre-trial Community Service
The programme arranges that the young person concerned commits himself or herself to serving the community for a recommended number of hours instead of going to court. Pre-trial Community Service is often used in conjunction with other programmes. NICRO staff place young people in suitable community service settings, depending on their skills and where they are needed most. On completion of the service, the charge is withdrawn.
- Family Group Conferences
The conferences offer an opportunity to mediate between those affected by crime. The Conference brings together the young offenders, their families and victims of crime to discuss what went wrong, how it can be repaired and what can be done to put things right. A contract spelling out the agreement about how the damage can be repaired, and a plan of action, is signed. The prosecutor is informed once all the goals have been reached. This is a highly successful way of young people understanding the impact of their actions, and the power they have to put things right. The Conference provides healing for all concerned. It is restorative justice in action.
- The Journey
The Journey is a two to three month intensive programme for youth at risk. It has a strong adventure component. The Journey encourages self-expression, commitment, accountability and a sense of community. It is aimed at the more serious offenders and multiple offenders, and early school leavers. Community mentors support the participants through the challenging process that they commit to when they start the Journey. An individual plan is put in place for each participant for a constructive future.
Youth, Economic Development
The organisation aims to achieve the dream of a safe country, a country where people are able to live safely in their homes, move freely around their neighbourhoods, and where the fear of crime no longer governs. The projects hope to challenge offenders to take responsibility for their actions, support victims of crime, assist in small business development and offer the opportunity for constructive rather than destructive living.
NICRO website on August 31 2004.