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NICRO: SUPPORTING FORMER OFFENDERS

Support for ex-prisoners and crime survivors

One of the reasons many ex-prisoners go back to jail after being released, is that they feel they are not welcome back in society. After leaving prison, most of them find themselves without jobs and homes. Many are rejected by their families and communities.

This makes them want to go back to jail where they “have life”, said Sam Rhodes, a former prisoner from the Cape Flats.

All the days combined that Rhodes spent outside prison between 1962 and 1998, are less than a year.

Changed his life

"I was surprised when I was released in 1998 to find a new South Africa without racial discrimination," he said.

Thanks to the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Re-integration of Offenders (Nicro), Rhodes decided to change his life in 1998.

Nicro is a countrywide, non-profit organisation that helps ex-prisoners to re-build their lives after they leave prison. They offer support, empowerment and skills development to prisoners, ex-prisoners, crime victims and the youth. Their projects include re-integrating offenders into communities, supporting victims of crime, youth development programmes and economic opportunities.

Social workers

As part of the Offender Re-integration Programme, social workers go to prisons to prepare prisoners to face the community after being released.

The social workers find out which skills the prisoners got in jail. They then encourage them to join one of Nicro's programmes to help them make a living outside prison.

Families of prisoners also get advice on how to support them and make them feel wanted when they get out of prison, she said.

Victim support

Nicro's Victim Support Programme helps victims and witnesses of crimes to deal with the situation. They help with counselling, opening a case with the police, and court procedures.

The Youth Programme gives young offenders life-skills that help them to take responsibility for their lives and turn away from crime.

The Economic Opportunities Project helps those who want to start small businesses. They get training in business and life-skills, tender procedures and budgeting. Nicro also helps them find sponsors and jobs.

It is through the Economic Opportunities Project that Rhodes took charge of his life and started a small business. He now runs a successful sweet shop from his father's house in Gugulethu.

"The Nicro programme changed my mindset," he said. "It taught me to be responsible for my actions and I began to see life differently."

- Ndivhuwo Khangale