Tuesday, 31 May 2016

What causes a child to be violent at school?

School violence is a terrible issue for schools these days. Children are getting violent and disturbing other children who are coming to schools, as well as the teachers and staff. Children are bringing weapons like knives and guns to school and are harming students, teachers and other people. But what is the reason behind such things?

  • Atmosphere at home - if the children are living in an unpleasant environment then they tend to turn to violence. If they see that their parents are fighting and beating each other then they will learn to do the same.

  • Weapons - In this day and age, weapons are easier to get a hold of than you think. They may buy these weapons through such means and use them in school.
  • Bullying - A child can be bullied to such a point where they have to turn to violence as the only means to stop it. This is where help from a loved one or a non-profit organisation, such as NICRO, can help a lot.
  • Media effect - TV and games show a variety of violent acts. A child may watch these things and decide to practice them in real life.
  • Group effect - Children tend to become violent if they are the part of the group in which all members are violent. If their friends are violent and showing violence in school then they will learn the same thing and they will also express violence in school.
  • Lack of counseling - If a child is not given proper counseling and proper love and affection then the chances of becoming violent are more.
  • No guidance in difficulties - If no guidance has been provided by either a family member or a teacher at school, the difficulties they are dealing with may then lead them to become violent. They are unable to solve problems on their own and this can lead to unnecessary violence. 

There are people who can help, like NICRO, who offer a variety of different programmes and services to those in need. Do your part, contact NICRO, it is the matter of child’s future and you should choose the best for children.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Are you willing to report a family member?

It takes a lot of guts and pure bravery to report someone abusive to the police, but it takes even more to report an abusive family member! We know for a fact that most of the abusers are members of the family, and studies show that barely any instances are reported to the police. So, why aren't more people coming forward and reporting abuse?

It could be that people don't want to "tell on", "rat out" or get their family members into trouble, even though abuse is taking place. There is a lot of shame in a member of your family abusing you, there is also a lot of fear of what they will do.

Most people would rather keep quite and suffer in silence than report abuse to the law. Even if a family member is reported, later on in the situation the victims may even refuse to speak up or testify against them. This means that charges may not stick, the abuser will probably be released and begin abusing the victim again.

It is as much a problem of our emotions and fears as it is of the wrongdoing itself. We somehow justify the actions, we look the other way or we fear what the justice system will do to our abusive relative.  We must stop giving thieves a pass.

Why are we remaining silent so often?

Whether or not the criminal justice system can prove the crime is not your problem.  It is your problem to know about the abuse and to do nothing.  One day it could be you who is victimized.

At NICRO we urge you to do your part to report abuse and to do something about it! If you or a loved one is ever in need, do not hesitate to contact NICRO right away!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

The most common form of abuse

The most common form of abuse is emotional abuse. However, it is the type of abuse that we talk about the least. Why do people choose to overlook it? Well, a lot of emotional abuse is considered to be normal in this day and age.

Emotional abuse is not like sexual or physical abuse. It is made up of a lot of incidents and things that happen over a period of time. It is so much more than what you may think - emotional abuse is more than just verbal insults!

Emotional abuse may be abuse in the form of: rejection, threats, criticisms, aggression, ignoring, isolation, teasing and so much more. It can also take place in a number of places, from the comfort of your own home to the workplace and even in a happy relationship.


Emotional abuse is not only under-reported, but it’s effects are minimized. The famous childhood verse, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me” is simply not true. In fact, many physical and sexual abuse survivors have said that the emotional abuse was often more devastating and had longer-term effects.

Emotional abuse cuts to the core of a person, attacking their very being. Emotional abuse, if frequent enough, is usually internalized by the victim, and leaves them feeling fearful, insignificant, unworthy, untrusting, emotionally needy, undeserving and unlovable, and as if they were bad, deserving of punishment, and to blame.

Survivors of emotional abuse often have a hard time understanding why they feel so bad. The abuse may not sound like much, and often people around them will minimize the experience, telling them it’s not so bad. But a climate of disregard for a person’s feelings, where one is subjected to constant or frequent criticisms, being yelled at, or being ignored – has a deep and profound effect, attacking the very self-image and confidence of a person.


How do you recognize emotional abuse? One thing that can help is to step back from your situation and examine the overall climate in your home or your workplace. Trust your instincts and feelings about people. Sometimes, a person can just look at you and you know that they are looking down at you. Other times, their words are okay but their tone is mean. Emotional abuse is insidious and can be very subtle, so trust your gut; it’s telling you something.


Because it is harder to name emotional abuse as abuse, it can be harder to heal from as well. The first step is to name your experience as abuse. Trust how you feel. Many people can identify the abuse once they know what to look for because they change from being outgoing, self-confident, and care-free to feeling nervous, anxious, and fearful in the company of an emotionally abusive person. Just because you’re feeling those feelings doesn’t mean that you’re being emotionally abused; there could be something else going on. But, those feelings combined with abusive behavior is convincing evidence that you are being abused.

Try describing to other people how this person behaves. Be honest, and listen to the feedback you receive. If you don’t feel good about the feedback, try someone else. Remember that emotional abuse is frequently minimized.

No matter what you’ve been told or how you’ve been treated, you are worthy of love and respect. The more you know this, the less likely you will be to accept disrespectful or abusive behavior towards yourself or others. You should not have to take emotional abuse from anyone – no matter what the excuse. You deserve to be treated well.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around - We encourage all South Africans not to stand back, but become involved either by donating a monthly amount, a once-off donation or look at the NICRO wish list for support in kind for around the country and see how you can assist.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Life After 44 Years in Prison

After being in prison for 44 years, the world can be an overwhelming place. To Otis Johnson, there was a vast amount of people walking fast, staring at their mobile devices and not paying attention to the world around them.

This can be a confusing time for someone who has been in prison since 1975. Johnson feels that he has entered a frightening society where everyone is a secret agent, watching people and wearing wires. We don't blame him, the tech era completely passed him by when he has in prison.

The 44 year sentence began when Johnson was arrested for the attempted murder of a police man. He entered jail when he was just 25 years old and by the time he came out in August 2014 he was 69.

Johnson was meant to be released earlier, but he ended up serving an extra eight months at the age of 69 for a juvenile shoplifting charge he received when he was 17!

The initiatives to reduce the sentences for drug offenders and nonviolent crimes are under way, but it seems like the old people in prison also need a legislation reform.

From 1999 to 2014, the amount of prisoners aged from 55 and older went up by 250%, while those younger than 55 grew by only 8%. It seems that the number of elderly prisoners is growing over the years.

After drug offenders are qualified for early release, elderly prisoners could be next to be reintroduced into the world.

But, just think about the problems and obstacles that former inmates will face after spending most of their lives locked up. They will face things such as mental health issues and side effects.

“Prison decides when lights go on and when they go off,” Marieke Liem, a researcher at Harvard Kennedy School, said “Every moment of the day is scheduled. When you have been in the prison system the majority of your life, how can you be expected to function as a member of society? And make a plan?”

Upon release from prison, Johnson was handed an ID, documents outlining his criminal case history, $40 and two bus tickets. Having lost all family connections while serving his sentence, Johnson now relies on a nonprofit that provides housing and services to ex-prisoners in Harlem. NICRO is a nonprofit organisation in South Africa that provides a number of rehabilitation services, prison programmes and so much more. Do your part and contact NICRO to get help, or make a donation today!

Each day, he navigates the world as best as he can. He involves himself with a local mosque. He practices tai chi and meditates. He attempts to pursue his dream of opening up a shelter for women, though with his lack of credit history securing the funds for such a project has proven close to impossible. He walks the streets of New York, observing people around him. He returns to his nonprofit housing at 9pm each night, heeding his curfew.

With the current focus on reform, Johnson hopes that re-entry for ex-prisoners, including those having served for decades, will be streamlined to effectively address their needs. Whether freedom can prove liberating, rather than overwhelming, for those convicts who have grayed behind bars, remains to be seen.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

What Happens when a Baby is Born in Jail?

Even though a large section of women in US prisons are mothers, we still do not have a policy to say what should happen to their babies born behind bars!

Where are these babies going? Yes, in the 1950s nurseries in prison where an everyday thing, but what happened after the prison population sky-rocketed? Studies show that the number of women in prison quadrupled, which means that prisons could no longer afford to accommodate raising a baby in jail.

It is no surprise that most mothers in prison had to give up their baby or place the kids with relatives.

Recent studies show that in order to create a mother-baby bond, the first two years of the child's life are extremely important. Children that do not experience this are more likely to act up and show bad behaviour later on in life. Another factor is that women who are allowed to raise their children are less likely to return to a life of crime.

NICRO is a non-profit organisation which offers a range of different servicescrime prevention, diversion, non-custodial sentencing, offender reintegration. If you or a loved one is ever in need, do not hesitate to contact NICRO right away!

All across the world, it is agreed that a baby's place is at their mother's side. In Sweden, babies can be accommodated for up to a year (the average stay is three months). In most European countries, mothers are allowed to keep their infants through weaning. Prisons in India are required to offer nurseries and day care for mothers and their children. In Chile, jail-born children begin taking state-run educational programs at six months of age. In Mexico, children are required to stay with their mothers until they’re 6 years old, and have the freedom to leave on weekends and holidays.

For those who are angered by just thinking about babies being raised in prison, Germany represents a common sense compromise. There, qualified mothers are allowed to leave prison every morning to see their children off to school, spending the day doing housework and preparing meals for their children. At the end of the day, the women return to the jail to sleep. Their waking hours are spent fostering a stable, nurturing environment for the next generation, one that won’t have to remember a childhood spent behind bars.

Obviously, jail is not the perfect place to raise a child. However if you separate a mother from their child, this can be cruel and damaging to both mother and child.

Monday, 16 May 2016

It is possible to clear your old criminal records using the expungement procedure

Would you like to clear your criminal record? It is possible by using the expungement procedure!

So, what is the expungement procedure?

Expungement is the process when your criminal record is removed and cleared from your personal record, so you are given the opportunity to start a fresh new life!

Can I apply for expungement? 
  • Only is ten years has lapsed after the date of the conviction for that offence
  • Only if you have not been convicted of any other offence and sentenced to a period of imprisonment without the option of a fine during those 10 years
A person will not qualify if:
  • He or she was convicted of a sexual offence against a child or a person who is mentally disabled or of an offence, where he or she was found to be unsuitable to work with children


 - A clearance certificate that shows that ten years has gone by since your conviction must be acquired from the Criminal Record Centre of the South African Police Service.

- Attach your clearance certificate to your application.

- If your name is on the National Register for Sex Offenders, it needs to be removed before you can apply.

- If your name is on the National Child Protection Register, it needs to be removed and attached to the application.

- All the attachedments and the application form must be posted or delivered by hand to the Director-General: Justice and Constitutional Development.

There is always a chance to start over, and the expungement procedure is just that! Don’t let your criminal record hold you back – contact NICRO today and we can help you or a loved one along the way!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Darius Clark Monroe Revisits his Past

In 1997, a young Darius Clark Monroe robbed a bank in Stafford, Texas with two friends when he was only 16 years of age. This parents were struggling with money, so Monroe, being young and stupid, thought taking a gun to a bank and stealing would be the right thing to do. Unfortunately, he was tried as an adult and served a long three years in a prison cell for the crime.

After this horrible event, you would think that Monroe would want to forget his crimes and never look back. But when he was a student at  NYU film school, Monroe decided in order to gain closure, he would need to go back to the past.

He decided to shoot a documentary "Evolution of a Criminal" with one of his NYU professors.

The documentary is made up of interviews with Monroe's family, his teachers and law enforcement officials. He also decided to create a reenactment of the crime to show how the crime happened.

However, the most intense moments in the documentary happen when Monroe visits the homes of the people who were in the bank that day and apologizes to them for what he put them through.

Here are a few questions Monroe was asked about his documentary...
  • How did it come to be that you decided to turn the camera on yourself and tell this story?

It started because of a weird situation that happened in New York many years after the robbery. I had a really, really bad panic attack standing inside of a bank. I thought someone who was pacing back and forth outside the window was going to come in and rob it. I just created this whole incident in my head.

I knew that the panic attack was due to the fact that I had been involved in a robbery as an offender, but I always believed that I would be a victim one day. And so that's sort of what got my mind to think about the customers inside the bank [I robbed] and the fact that I had never really just gone down to apologize, to seek these individuals out and to ask for forgiveness. I felt the need to have a conversation. I just felt like so much time had gone by, and I was ashamed that I had not really considered the fact that these people deserved a proper apology.

  • So was that when you knew you wanted to make a film?

No. Actually, it just turned into me wanting to go there and find the people. My best friend, Daniel Patterson, who is also the DP of the film, was like, "Take cameras with you. Who knows what may happen? You should film this journey."

We thought the film would be more about me making the film about trying to track down these people inside the bank, and it changed completely after talking with my mother because I realized that there was just so much about the robbery and my incarceration that we never spoke about, and I became fascinated with what influenced me to make this choice in the first place.

And I knew that I was going to have to be in there because there was just no way I could ask my family to essentially rip their hearts out again and go down this road if I wasn't willing to do it myself.

  • Was your family open to reliving all of this again on camera, or did it take some convincing to get them to agree to be interviewed?

They were pretty much open to it when I mentioned it to them, but the thing, I think, that was surprising for a lot of us, was that we felt there was some sense of distance from the topic and closure, but we were all fooling ourselves. I knew that for a fact because the moment we started the interviews and got to the topic of the robbery and all the circumstances around it emotions were super high. None of us had really worked through any it. I think everybody was sort of surprised by how emotional and how raw they were years later.

  • You also apologize to some of the people who were in the bank at the time you rob it, showing up at their homes and knocking on their doors. What was that like?

It was terrifying. I was terrified because I didn't know what type of response I would get or who was going to show up at the door. I also didn't know if they were going to show up at the door with a shotgun once they found out who I was.

  • Your mom must be so proud of you.

It's funny. She's been smiling so much this whole year, and I know she's proud. It was a tough situation when she found out about the robbery and me going to prison. So to go from such a really dark and down place to having a film out that’s being shown at festivals and being able to talk about what happened and not feel ashamed . . . This was an experience that no one could ever imagine would happen. It’s been quite surreal, and it's been extremely humbling, and it just shows the power of resilience and faith and hope and possibility that’s within us human beings. It's a beautiful thing.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around. Do you, or a loved one need help? We have a variety of different rehabilitation programmes and services. Or do your part to help others and donate today!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Children Pay the Price when Parents go to Jail

A parent may be going to jail, but the child will pay the ultimate price! We take a look at how prison can affect a child's life...

When she was a child, 22-year-old Ifetayo Harvey's father was sentenced to prison for cocaine trafficking.

"My dad went to prison when I was 4 years old, and he was released when I was 12," Harvey says.

Harvey is one of millions of young people who grew up with a parent in prison. A recent study found that prison can have an extremely negative effect on children and ultimately the whole family when a parent ends up in jail.

Like many children with incarcerated parents, Harvey has suffered for her father's crime.

But at first, she didn't even know her dad had gone to prison.

"I noticed that my dad was gone for a while, but because my parents weren't married and they didn't live together, I assumed that he would be back," Harvey says.

She started receiving letters from her father, and was confused by the long strings of letters and codes. She says it was in sometime in first or second grade that her mother told her that her father was in prison.

"I was really sad about it," she says.

In his letters, he told her how much he loved and cared about her, but Harvey says it felt like a contradiction with him not being there while she was dealing with a lot of depression and shame. "It was just a really confusing time," she says.

Even though the rate of incarceration has basically quadrupled over the past four decades, no one has really studied its effects on the family - especially the kids!

This is an important social question which is not getting enough attention from the research community — not because there is not enough interest, but because we've not been willing to pay for it.

The number of kids with an incarcerated parent is "staggering."

There are higher rates of homelessness among families when the father is in prison, poor developmental outcomes for the children in those families, and that there's greater family instability in those families.

The children in those families often end up in foster care and have difficulties in school forming attachments with their peers. All of those difficulties, present challenges for the communities, social workers, educators and family members who want to support that child through such a difficult time.

The first step, he says, is that we should have fewer people in prison, but it is more complicated than that.

We will always have people in prison however, we should pay attention to the collateral consequences of incarcerating parents.

Ifetayo Harvey is one of the lucky ones, in a way. She had the help and support of a larger extended family, and says she had positive role models in her family. This was in sharp contrast to the example her father set.

"Maybe even my dad being incarcerated motivated me to do the best that I could in school, so something like that wouldn't happen to me or anyone that I knew," she says.

But in many other ways, Harvey suffered from the problems laid out in the study. She never visited her father, who was in a prison out of state. She never had any phone calls. The absence of her father was a big burden on her mom.

"My mom is a single parent of seven kids, and once my dad went away, this put a really big financial strain on my family," she says.

Harvey says she often made something up when asked what her dad did for a living, to avoid having to explain he was in prison.

"It's hard to explain that to people because there's such a heavy stigma against people who are incarcerated or formerly incarcerated," she says.

Harvey says that lately she's been focused on the positive aspects of growing up with a parent in prison. She says it taught her to empathize and understand people from a different angle.

Harvey's dad was deported back to Jamaica after he was released. She saved up enough money to make a trip there to visit when she was 16 years old. Before that trip, it has been 12 years since she's last seen him. She says it was a good experience, though a little awkward at times.

"But I was willing to rebuild our relationship, and I think it's good," she says. "It's good for what it is; my dad calls me once or twice a week."

Harvey just graduated from Smith College and now wants to pursue a master's degree in social work. Her dad's experience gave her a passion for social justice, and she's no longer ashamed to talk about this part of her life.

"I get power from speaking the truth of my story to others," she says. "I think that once you realize that you're not alone in your struggle, it's easier to heal."

We encourage all South Africans not to stand back, but become involved either by donating a monthly amount, a once-off donation or look at the NICRO wish list for around the country and see how you can assist.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

CeCe McDonald: Rebuilding her Life after Prison

CeCe McDonald served 19 months in prison and has become the face for victims of anti-transgender discrimination. Why? McDonald braves it all and uses the spotlight to tell her story, the real story...

"I never expected that people would look up to me," she says. "In prison, I got lots of letters of support. It showed that people cared. I never thought that people were actually seeing me as this leader or a role model. It's really amazing that it got to this level, and I'm glad that I have this platform so I can get the word out about the prison-industrial complex, trans women, African-American trans women, people of color."

This is a story of survival, of a woman let down by the exact system that should of been protecting her! The system betrayed her and prosecuted her, when in reality, McDonald and four of her friends were the victims of a brutal verbal and physical assault!

In 2011, the fight escalated when a verbal confrontation turned into a physical one when Molly Flaherty smashed a glass on McDonald's face, slicing her skin and creating a gash that would eventually need to be sewn shut with 11 stitches. Flaherty later pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and was sentenced to 180 days in jail.

Dean Schmitz (Flaherty's ex boyfriend) then pushed McDonald to the ground. As Schmitz approached her with his hands balled into fists, McDonald grabbed a pair of scissors she had been carrying. McDonald stabbed Schmitz with the scissors, inflicting a mortal wound. The 47-year-old Schmitz died at the scene.

McDonald was charged with second-degree murder, though McDonald's lawyer argued that what had transpired was an act of self-defense. With the possibility of a 25-year prison sentence looming, McDonald accepted a deal, pleading guilty to second-degree manslaughter, which resulted in a 41-month sentence. Despite initial hopes that she’d be placed with other women, it was determined that McDonald would serve her time in a men's correctional facility, where she stayed until her release in January.

Finally out, McDonald has spent her time speaking out against the prison-industrial complex. "I felt like they wanted me to hate myself as a trans woman,” she said, adding, "Prisons aren't safe for anyone, and that's the key issue."

Usually transgender women are placed in men's prisons. This is dangerous as they are at a significantly higher risk of getting sexually assaulted or abused compared to their fellow inmates!

Some have argued that trans women should be placed in solitary confinement as a means to reduce their exposure to physical harm, though this has the unwanted effect of inflicting emotional and mental stress on the individual.

"A lot of time people don't know the circumstances that come along with trans women in prison."

McDonald has been working on a documentary titled Free CeCe. It’s her hope that the film will help give a face and a voice to trans inmates, humanizing them: "In the documentary you'll see me as a person, with my family and friends; seeing the personality and the humor, and the life that I have and share with others."

That first qualifier — "person" — speaks to the tragic state of public understanding of trans people. Many trans individuals have frequently said they tend to be teated as a type of aberration or atrocity, as opposed to recognizing their humanity.

The man who attacked McDonald had a symbol of hated, a swastika, tattooed on his chest, also symbolic of what happens when the world fears those who are different. In a fair world— one without institutionalized racism, sexism, and bigotry — maybe he wouldn’t have felt the need to harass a complete stranger, and his friend wouldn’t find it appropriate to physically assault that woman. In a fair world, McDonald wouldn’t have sensed a need to protect herself from imminent harm the way she did.

Sadly, this isn't a fair world. McDonald went to prison and Schmitz died. But McDonald hopes her story and others can help change that.

"I feel like, at first, I wasn't ready for this type of leadership, this type of position," McDonald says of her status as a role model. "But there's no one out there who's really saying it."

McDonald says it's most important to forge unity between all people to come together in an effort to fight deeply ingrained negative societal assumptions.

"If I need to take this position, to use this platform to get this word out, then I will," she says. "I want to see some type of change. We need to be more collective, have an initiative to change the hate, discrimination, and injustices for the LGBTQI community."

What the world does have, however, is hope. Because McDonald had to endure this event and because she had to experience firsthand how society’s biases can be used against her, she has become uniquely qualified to lead a conversation moving forward, taking on the considerable task of chipping away at the world’s evils.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around - We encourage all South Africans not to stand back, but become involved either by donating a monthly amount, a once-off donation or look at the NICRO wish list for support in kind for around the country and see how you can assist.