Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Peer Pressure and its Effect on the Youth

What is peer pressure? It is the influence of your friends or a single person to do something you do not really want to do.

In the teen years, it is common to want to be a part of something, like a group of friends or the "cool kids"

Peer pressure can happen to anyone, more often than none it happens to young people who do not want to feel left out. Teens may decide to do what others are doing just so that they include them.

If you’re dealing with peer pressure, you’re not alone.

How does peer pressure affect us?

Peer pressure doesn't always have to be a bad thing. It can be influence in a positive way, like a friend encouraging you to study hard for a test, or a character on a TV series motivating teens to pick up litter. But you need to know that peer pressure can also be negative.

Peer pressure might influence you in a number of ways, including:
  • Fashion choices
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Decision to have a boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Choice of who your friends are
  • Academic performance
Where does peer pressure come from?

Peer pressure is often seen at school or in communities. It affects people of all ages, from young children and teens to even parents and teachers! Peer pressure can affect you in different ways:

Directly. Peer pressure can be as simple and direct as someone telling you what to do. It might be a good idea to talk to someone you trust if you feel threatened, or if you are being hurt or pressured into something you don’t want to do. You could talk to a family member, friend, teacher or counselor. Check out the NICRO Get Help section for more information about how they can help.

Indirectly. Peer pressure might not always be obvious to you. It’s not uncommon for a group of friends to have particular habits or activities that they do together. But when you’re with a different group of friends, it might be unlikely that you do those same things. For example, you might only smoke when you are with certain friends, or you might be more likely to study when you are with other friends.

Individually. Sometimes the pressure comes from you. Feeling different from a group can be hard. Sometimes this happens when people move to a new city or start a new school or job. This often means having to make new friends and fit into a new environment. To avoid feeling out of place, you might do things to make sure you feel like the rest of the group. When people feel unsure about themselves, they might be more likely to feel the effects of peer pressure.

What can you do about peer pressure?

Value common interests.
Try to hang out with pole who like the same things as you do, this way you cannot be influenced or pressured into doing something you don't want to do. Being part of the "cool crowd" may not be as cool as you may think!

Say no. 
Be strong, take a deep breath and say no! It may be hard at that moment and people may tease you, but in the end you are the better person for sticking to what you believe in.

Try not to judge others. 
If possible, try not to place judgments on other people’s choices. Respecting someone else’s choice may help them to respect yours. Remember that you don’t have to agree with their actions. Focusing on the reasons why you don’t feel happy with the choice might help you to not judge them.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around - share your struggle or get help and support from NICRO!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Teen Boy Tells of "Bonnie and Clyde" Crime Spree

Dalton Hayes, a young boy from Kentucky, confirmed that he would commit all the crimes again for his 13 year old partner-in-crime!

“The look in her eyes at the beach, the way she looked at me...she was the most happy girl alive,” Dalton Hayes, 18, says about his 13-year-old accomplice in the first interview since their January arrest.

“I would do it all over again to protect her.”

Hayes recently opened up in a jailhouse interview…

The crime spree lasted about two weeks and now he is facing 20 years in prison. The young couple managed to steal trucks and bounce checks across the states, from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Caroline and Georgia before getting caught and arrested in Florida.

In the interview, Hayes insisted that his young partner begged him to flee after she said her family abused her, this story was denied by the family.

When the two took off, Hayes didn’t even know his new lover’s age.

“Some people think it’s a bad thing because she’s 13,” Hayes says. “I had no clue she was 13.”

Hayes claims he tried his best to look after her when they were on the run, he managed to always make sure she had food in her stomach even though they had no cash.

Apparently, she was the one who pressured him to keep the crime spree going, even when he said he wanted to just go home.

“I knew we was gonna get caught,” Hayes says. “I knew what we were facing. She thought it was all a joke.”

He has a lot of regret, but he says he would repeat the crime spree again if it meant saving her from her abusive family.

“What I did was not smart, by no means,” he admits in the interview. “I could’ve went about it a million different ways.”

But he says he’s still hung up on her, crying in jail because he misses her so much.

The "Bonnie and Clyde" label that the media has given the couple is not accurate at all, Hayes insists that they are nothing like the dangerous duo.

“I think the news broadcasters took it way out of proportion, ‘cause it wasn’t no Bonnie and Clyde” Hayes says. “It was nothing like that.”

Nonetheless, he calls Bonnie and Clyde “two people that I’ve always liked.”

Hayes faces 18 charges, including statutory rape. Police haven’t released information about the girl's charges because she is a minor.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around. If you or a loved one is ever charged or arrested, NICRO offers a wide range of services to victims, offenders and communities.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Sobering Facts of Teen Drinking and Driving

Did you know that the amount of teens who drink and drive has decreased drastically, but there is still more that we can do to stop it from happening.

Recent studies show that teenage drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash. 

*High school students aged 16 years and older who, when surveyed, said they had driven a vehicle one or more times during the past 30 days when they had been drinking alcohol.*

Fewer teens are drinking and driving, but this risky behaviour is still a major threat.
  •  Drinking and driving among teens in high school has gone down by 54% since 1991. Still, high school teens drive after drinking about 2.4 million times a month.
  •  85% of teens in high school who report drinking and driving in the past month also say they binge drank. In the survey, binge drinking was defined as having 5 or more alcoholic drinks within a couple of hours.
  •  1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes had some alcohol in their system in 2010. Most of these drivers (81%) had BACs* higher than the legal limit for adults.
*Blood alcohol concentration. The legal limit is a breath alcohol content of 0.24mg per 1,000ml, or a blood alcohol limit of 0.05g per 100ml.

What Can Be Done

Communities can
  • Increase awareness among teens and parents by getting involved with non-profit organisations such as NICRO.
  • Strengthen enforcement of existing policies, such as minimum legal drinking age and zero tolerance laws.
Paediatricians, NICRO and other health professionals can
  • Test teens for risky behaviours, such as:
- Using alcohol, drugs or other dangerous substances
- Driving after alcohol or drug use
- Riding with a driver who has been using alcohol or drugs
  • Inform parents and teens about the risks of drinking and driving.
  • Encourage parents of new teen drivers to set and enforce the "rules of the road" and consider tools like parent-teen driving agreements.
  • Remind parents to lead by example as safe drivers, starting even before their child is old enough to drive.
Teens can
  • Be smart and choose to never drink and drive.
  • Refuse to ride in a car with any driver who has been drinking.
  • Know and follow the laws.
  • Follow the rules of the road.
  • Wear a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short.
  • Obey speed limits.
  • NEVER use a cell phone or text while driving.
Parents can
  • Understand that most teens who drink only do it to get drunk and have fun.
  • Recognize the dangers of teen drinking and driving and that teen drivers are at much greater risk of crashing after drinking alcohol than adult drivers.
  • Provide teens with a safe way to get home (such as picking them up or paying for a cab) if their driver has been drinking.
  • Model safe driving behaviour.
All around the world teens can get a driver's license, some even as young as 15 can get one! And even though these drivers cannot buy alcohol or drink it until a certain age, they are and it is creating some shocking drunk driving statistics!

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Going Clubbing? Here's How to Stay Safe

Clubbing is a great way to have fun and let loose with your friends. But it is important to remember that it can also be dangerous.

You may think that those who take safety precautions when they're out clubbing are lame or uncool, but clubbing just isn't the same as it used to be, and it's always better to be safe than sorry! With all the drugs today, it is easy to get spiked and taken advantage of.

Remember there is safety in numbers. Always go out with a group of friends, especially if you are female. Make sure to regularly check in with your friends to ensure they are okay. Try to organise a meeting point at the end of the night and never ever leave alone!

Always watch your drinks. Even if you look away for a few minutes, this gives someone ample time to drop something in your drink. Try to drink out of a bottle or always hold your drink in front of you. If you start to feel weird and abnormal, get someone to take you home or to the hospital immediately.

Drink water too! Drinking water is important, especially if you have been drinking alcohol the whole night. Try to drink a glass of water in between each glass of alcohol you drink.

Pack light. Leave your valuables and important items at home. It is best to just pack your cell phone, ID, debit card and cash—but not a large amount of cash.

Know how you’re getting home. Don't wait until the last minute to find out how you are getting home. Have a taxi number ready, or make sure you have a sober ride home. Never accept rides from strangers!

All said, do not be afraid to go clubbing! Some organizations will have you believe that clubbing is unsafe, but it only is if you’re unprepared. By following the simple steps outlined above and employing a little common sense you’ll have a blast, meet tons of great people looking to have fun and, of course, have the opportunity to listen to great dance music.

NICRO is a non-profit organization that is committed to turning lives around. if you feel a friend or a loved one is abusing alcohol, clubbing constantly or delving in dangerous activities (like drugs), don't hesitate to contact NICRO right away!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

From Taking a Life to Saving Lives

Xavier McElrath-Bey grew up surrounded by gangs. Even though he was still a young elementary school child he knew what places and streets to avoid and he knew to stay away from gang territory. 

His family life was tough. He and his siblings often went hungry and they were placed in foster care at 6 years old. His foster care life wasn't any better than his original family, as he was beaten and abused. 

After a few years they returned to their mother, unfortunately her boyfriend would beat her and the children. This was when Xavier joined his surrogate family, his gang, the Latin Kings.

“It’s not like you wake up and say, ‘I want to become a gang member because my mom or my dad is abusing me. There is a certain level of insecurity and feeling unsafe. You want to connect with a group.”

“You want to empower yourself, not to mention you want to have someone that you feel connected with when you come from a home environment where there’s a lot of neglect and abuse.”

Xavier began becoming involved in crimes - armed robberies, weapons violations, aggravated batteries and assaults. By the time he was only 13 years of age, he had been arrested a shocking 19 times and gone to juvenile facilities seven times!

The incident happened in October 1989 when Xavier was just 13 years old. He and the Latin Kings lured a rival gang member into a vacant building and fatally beat and stabbed him. The victim was only 14 years old.

Xavier was arrested two weeks later and received a sentence of 25 years.

“When you’re a kid, you really just live for the moment; you know you’re caught up in a daily struggle for survival in that prison system: What’s going to happen in the yard? Is there going to be a riot?” McElrath-Bey said.

After being moved to a maximum-security prison for adults at only 17, Xavier began to change his thinking for the better. 

He often watched TV shows liked "Saved By the Bell" and wondered what his life would be like if he never made the mistakes he had made. 

From there, his life changed. He decided to get enrolled in school and be as he would have been in free society had he never been arrested. 

Xavier thought about simple freedoms like being able to walk to your own refrigerator or stepping outside to smell the grass. “That becomes like a fantasy world because in prison your concept of a free society is like that of heaven,” he said.

He worked toward his goals while still in prison, earning a bachelor’s degree in social science (with a 4.0 GPA) in 1999 at a prison in Galesburg, Ill., where the Chicago-based Roosevelt University offered courses.

In his mind’s eye, the former gang member said, he continually returned to that October night in 1989 — and has often thought about the victim and the dead boy’s mother.

“I think about the fact that he was no different from me. He was a kid who grew up with a troubled life in a poor family,” McElrath-Bey said. “That could have very well easily been me. That could have been my mother mourning, so I just think about his loss and what that really meant and how tragic it really was because it was based upon this false illusion of us and them.”

For McElrath-Bey, freedom came at last in 2002 after he served 13 years in prison.

He wasted no time making up for the lost years of his youth.

As a newly released 26-year-old, he took a job at Starbucks and soon enrolled part-time at Roosevelt, where he earned a Master of Arts degree in human services in 2006.

McElrath-Bey stayed close to the justice system in a decade-long series of jobs — but on the right side of the law this time.

He served from 2003 to 2006 as a “ceasefire outreach worker” for the Chicago-based Alliance of Local Service Organizations, helping at-risk youth through case management, home visits and referrals; providing crisis intervention and assistance to gunshot victims at a hospital; and helping organize annual peace walks.

McElrath-Bey went on to work for Catholic Charities of the Chicago Archdiocese, specializing in gang intervention and providing services to at-risk youth and families living in bad neighbourhoods, like where he grew up.

He then worked for the Chicago-based non-profit Alternatives Inc. with youths referred by the juvenile justice system.

At the Northwestern Juvenile Project, part of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, where he spent more than five years, McElrath-Bey conducted interviews with more than 800 participants in a longitudinal study of the mental health needs of formerly incarcerated youth.

This month, McElrath-Bey, 38, began working in his new role as a youth justice advocate at the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth.

In the Chicago-based job, he will advocate for reforming the juvenile justice system, particularly by eliminating extreme sentencing of youngsters, and try to dispel stereotypes.

“What I intend to do,” McElrath-Bey said, “is share about my life and change the face of formerly incarcerated youth — have people understand that these are not a bunch of monsters.

“They’re not a bunch of incorrigible super-predators but in fact these kids have great potential for positive change, and not only am I an example of that, but I know so many other individuals who have made such tremendous change and are great models to look at and say, ‘You know what, there is hope.’ So much is giving them an opportunity and chance. There truly is hope for these guys to reform their lives.”

Do your part in making a change, contact NICRO today or browse through to website to view the wide range of different services and programmes!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Why the Teenage Brain is Vulnerable to Addiction

The brain is still growing and developing during the teen years, and some of the brain's functions form at different rates than others.

We all know that teens thrive on taking risks and they often don't realise that their actions have consequences. Experimenting with alcohol and drugs is one of the risk they often take during the time their brains are changing.

Teens are more likely to take drugs because they see that they are accepted by their friends, they do not stop to think about the negative impact.

Teens are more likely to perceive social benefits of drug use (such as being accepted among peers or feeling more social) than they are to evaluate the negative effects. If you’re concerned about substance abuse in the life of a teen you know, get in touch with NICRO now for help and support.

Why Substance Abuse is Damaging to the Brain

The teen years are important because they shape how they will turn out as an adult, so it is vital to be healthy during these years. Drug abuse can negatively impact the brain in a way that affects growth and development in later years.

Substance abuse affects teen brain development by:
  • Interfering with neurotransmitters and damaging connections within the brain
  • Reducing the ability to experience pleasure
  • Creating problems with memory
  • Causing missed opportunities during a period of heightened learning potential
  • Ingraining expectations of unhealthy habits into brain circuitry
  • Inhibiting development of perceptual abilities

How Drinking Affects Teens

Binge drinking is a serious problem in the teen community. Studies show that when a teen drinks their brain responds differently compared to when an adult drinks.

In addition to addiction risks, alcohol poses a serious risk to the physical health and growth of teens. Studies have shown that excessive drinking in teens can result in:

  • Delayed puberty and/or negative effects on the reproductive system
  • Lower bone mineral density
  • Higher levels of liver enzymes that indicate liver damage
  • Shorter limbs and reduced growth potential

Social and Professional Risks of Teen Substance Abuse

In addition to the physical risks of teen drinking and drug abuse, there are many other consequences that could haunt teens well into adulthood. Because substance abuse can muddy reasoning and encourage rash decisions, there are many side effects of substance abuse that go far beyond the biological and physiological aspects.

Some of these include:

  • Criminal records
  • Car accidents
  • Assaults
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unplanned pregnancies
  • Wasted academic opportunities
  • Late start in chosen career path
  • Damaged relationships with friends and family

Get Help!

If you know a teen who is showing dangerous signs of drug or alcohol abuse, OR you feel that you need help, you can change your life or someone else's right now! Get in touch with NICRO today!

Friday, 10 June 2016

There are always two sides to bullying

There are always two sides to a story, just like there are always two sides to bullying. The victim being bullied and the bully. No matter who is involved, there are deeper reasons why the bully has decided to be a bully, this then effects the victim and results in them feeling physically and emotionally hurt.

This is a serious issue these days, especially in schools. Bullying can lead to violence and crime in later years.

The Bully

Bullies aren't always in the same situation, an unpleasant and poor home environment can't always be to blame. There are other things that can make someone turn into a bully, some of the time these are never recognized.

When parents find out their child is a bully, some of them will try to take control of the situation. If the problem is that the child cannot control their anger, then the parent can take action and help.

On the other hand, some bullies are the way they are because they do in fact have an unpleasant home environment and telling the parent will do nothing to improve the situation. When this happens, the school must take charge and arrange a way to consult and help the child.

The Bullied

When a child is bullied they feel hurt and alone, being bullied can also lead to some other problems down the line (depression, anxiety, stress). This may come as a shock, but it is the students who are bullied and pushed to a breaking point that use violence in order to make the bullying stop.

It would be beneficial for the child if their parents showed them how to stand up to the bully in a calm and aggressive way. No, this does not mean encouraging your child to be violent with the bully, but to simply let them know that the way they are acting is not right. If it does continue then it is time to ask for help.

Teachers should observe each student’s behaviour. Teachers are usually receptive to a student undergoing issues, so it is ideal to check with the student regarding anything that may be going on if it is noticed that he or she is depressed or there are changes in their grades.

In the end, the best thing to do is contact a non-profit organization like NICRO, who can help to ensure that bullying is curbed before it leads to violence in schools.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

The Impact of Underage Drinking

Underage drinking is when anyone under the legal age consumes alcohol in any way or form. Besides the fact that it is against the law, there are many reasons why underage people should never drink.

Drinking too much is a major cause of death from injuries among young people. Every year, underage drinking results in thousands of deaths. The deaths could be from - motorbike accidents, homicides, suicides, drownings, falls and drownings.

Drinking too much can harm the growing brain. Did you know that the brain doesn't stop developing until it is into the mid-20s? The part of the brain that is developed to control decision-making doesn't mature completely until after the teen years, so this could harm a teenager's ability to see reason and make good decisions.

Drinking too much can affect the body in many ways. Alcohol isn't all fun and games, some of the horrifying effects of alcohol range from hangovers and alcohol poisoning to death.

Drinking too much can lead to other problems. These may include bad marks in school, run-ins with the law, and drug use.

Drinking too much affects how well a young person judges risk and makes sound decisions. For example, after heavy drinking, a teen may see nothing wrong with driving their car at high speeds while drinking a beer, but before drinking, the teen can clearly see the danger involved.

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.

Monday, 6 June 2016

7 Warning Signs That Can Help You Spot a Criminal

If you work as a security officer, police officer, or even if you don't have a career in crime prevention, it is best to always know the warning signs to spot a criminal.

These signs are especially important when you are walking alone at night, when you're drawing money from an ATM or even when you see someone knocking on your door.

Do you know of a loved one, friend or family member who you think is involved in criminal activity? You can do your part - contact NICRO today and get help immediately!

Here are seven warning signs that someone might be up to no good:

1. You’re being followed. Humans almost have this sixth sense that lets them know when someone is following them. If you feel that someone is watching you or following you, find a well-lit area, open business or a crowd of people.

2. A male under 30. Don't just assume because you see a male under 30 that he is a criminal. However, the highest percentage of violent crimes are committed by males under 30 years. The older a man is, the less likely he is to be a criminal!

3. Loitering. Someone dodgy who is hanging outside a building or in the street, who has no reason for being there should be seen as suspicious. Luckily most cities have laws against loitering.

4. Loose, baggy clothes. There’s a reason loose clothes, especially shirts that hang over the beltline, became “gangsta” fashion statements. Loose-fitting shirts and pants make it easy to conceal guns, knives and other weapons.

5. Secretive behaviour. Someone who is glancing around nervously as if concerned about being spotted may have a reason for doing so. Someone who is preparing to commit a criminal act is likely to be nervous, jumpy and even paranoid.

6. Concealing headgear. Hats, beanies and hoodies that hide a person’s face can be a sign of criminal intent.

7. Sunglasses at night. Of course if it is daytime sunglasses would be perfectly fine, but at night? It is not just a bad fashion statement, it is also a legitimate cause for concern.

None of these signs — alone or in combination — is a 100-percent accurate predictor of criminal intent. Far from it. We all have to be careful not to fall victim to stereotypes. However, these signs raise the odds that criminal activity is at hand. Anyone who has worked in public/private security or law enforcement enough time tends to develop a “sixth sense” for spotting criminal personalities.

These nine signs are simply the most common and obvious indicators that someone may not have your best interests in mind, and that you should be on alert and ready to respond appropriately in the event of an attack.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Innocent man in prison was treated like the scum of the earth

A 22 year old steel worker who was falsely accused of rape, decided it was better for his safety if he fabricated a story and told other inmates that he was in prison for a shooting. But, one day, his name and charge details were revealed.

"In prison, if you are in for anything relating to a sex offence you are the lowest of the low," he explained. "My lawyers and even the prison staff told me that I would be in serious danger if other prisoners found out what I was charged with. So I concocted this story about being a career criminal who was in over a shooting. People seemed to believe it, but when my name was in the paper they realised why I was really there. I didn't leave my cell again."

In March 2009, James and a friend were accused of rape. Apparently they had burst into her home, threatened her with a knife and then raped her. The truth was, James knew the woman beforehand and she has invited them over after a night out.

James and his friend had never spent any time in jail. Luckily for his friend, he got bail and could leave after 10 days, but James was on remand for a full year. He had to spend most of the time in one of Britain's toughest prisons.

After a long hard battle, they were both acquitted in March this year. But even though he was cleared, James still says the feeling of being accused of rape still haunts him. He has not only lost a year of this life for something he did not do, but he is also not sure if he still has a job.

"Being accused of something I did not do was a nightmare," he said. "But when people in prison found out what the allegation was my life became unbearable. They would put razor blades under the door and urinate into my cell. They threatened me and my family.

"I was in a cell for 23 hours and 45 minutes a day for my own safety. The only time I was allowed out was for 15 minutes at night time when all of the other prisoners were asleep.

"Eventually I had to be transferred to Barlinnie for my own safety. I told the other prisoners the shooting story, which worked for a while, but then one of the guys from Addiewell was transferred too and it started again. I was put on suicide watch and I refused to eat. When I went out on the wing, people would point and say, 'there's the monster'.

"Next they moved me to the sex offenders' wing. I was the only remand prisoner there, and it was hell. There were rapists and pedophiles and I did not want to associate with these guys but I was being treated like one of them."

Even after his horrible experience, James has decided to support the suggestion that rape suspects should be given the same anonymity as victims. The proposal has been opposed by women's rights groups, who say that such a move would prevent genuine rape victims coming forward.

James said: "I understand that rape victims should have anonymity, but I do not see any reason why suspects should have their names in the public domain if they have not been found guilty of a crime.

"I fully agree that rapists should be named and shamed. They are the scum of the earth and their names and photographs should be in every newspaper. But in my opinion that should only happen when they are convicted.

"I had my name dragged through the dirt because of a false allegation. I was labelled a rape suspect and it nearly ruined my life.

"My name was cleared in a court of law but even now I hear the phrase 'no smoke without fire' and I feel that some people still look at me and say things behind my back.
"I agree with what women's groups say 99.9 per cent of the time. I think what they do for victims of rape is great because it is a terrible crime, but on the point of anonymity I have to disagree.

"When I was in Barlinnie I met three people who were on remand for rape: two were acquitted and the other had his conviction overturned on appeal. So false allegations do happen.

"People have to realise that cases like mine do occur. But because I was not entitled to anonymity my name was plastered across the newspapers with the word rape next to it. I will forever be linked with a rape accusation, even though I have been acquitted."

Have you been charged with a criminal offence? Let NICRO help you out during this tough time, we can offer a wide range of services to you. All you have to do is contact NICRO today!