Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Domestic Violence and Abuse in South Africa

Did you know that South Africa is the country with one of the highest occurrences of domestic violence in the world!

The sad part is that domestic violence and abuse is also the most regular human rights abuse in our country. In their own house, which are supposed to be safe places, women are beaten, killed, humiliated, threatened and sexually assaulted.

Recent SA studies show that one in every six women is assaulted by their partner - and it is a regular thing!

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Even though know we do not know the exact numbers involved, evidence clearly shows that women are victims of domestic violence notably more than men. Additionally, women are often abused severely and are more likely to be abused by their own partners.

Studies show that women who abuse males are likely to avoid being arrested, because law enforcement may view female perpetrators as victims rather than the abusers. Other studies show that communities have come to accept and view violence against men by women as okay.

Domestic abuse can also happen in a same-sex relationship. Although, domestic abuse and violence in gay and lesbian relationships earns little interest.

What is the definition of domestic violence? When one person in a relationship does harm to the other to show power and dominance, and in a large majority of cases, to keep control over them. Whether or not they are married or living together, this is domestic violence! 

Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998

Domestic violence is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998. The Act was introduced in 1998 with the purpose of affording women protection from domestic violence by creating obligations on law enforcement bodies, such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), to protect victims as far as possible. The Act attempts to provide victims of domestic violence with an accessible legal instrument with which to prevent further abuses taking place within their domestic relationships. The Act recognises that domestic violence is a serious crime against our society, and extends the definition of domestic violence to include not only married women and their children, but also unmarried women who are involved in relationships or living with their partners, people in same-sex relationships, mothers and their sons, and other people who share a living space.

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Do you know your rights as a woman? If not - click here!

NICRO is all about turning lives around and creating a better South Africa, for men, women and children! Contact NICRO today if you or a loved one needs help. Looking to join the NICRO team? Take a look at the vacancies and apply today!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Hard Life of Women in Prison

One of the most vulnerable and over-looked groups of women is female prisoners. Many prisons, such as Sun City in Johannesburg do not even care to provide the specific requirements for the females spending their lives in jail.

In comparison to the overall population of people in South African prisons, the amount of women in jail is very small. 

Even though there are only a small amount of women in prison, they have special needs in the healthcare department, like pregnancy, childcare and child birth. Unfortunately, SA deals with the rights of prisoners as a whole, so there are no rules and regulations made specifically for female inmates.

In 2010, South Africa signed the “UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules)” which are international guidelines for the treatment of women in prisons. One of the provisions stipulates: “Preventive health-care measures of particular relevance to women, such as Pap smears and screening for breast and gynaecological cancers, will be offered to women prisoners on an equal basis with women of the same age in the community”.

Several women in the Sun City prison in Johannesburg, do not feel like they are getting any benefits from these international guidelines. 

Alice Peterson*, 42, is serving a 12-year sentence for defrauding her former boss out of R1.4 million. Shockingly, she shares one shower and one toilet with the other 38 women who share a cell with her! The worst part is that she is diabetic, but she cannot test her sugar level because she has been told the testing machine at the prison does not work. 

Prisons are designed with only the needs of males in mind, when it comes to females and their needs, they are invisible! 

Often, prisoners will not be allowed to see a doctor unless they are classified as seriously ill. This is how it works in the prison...

- Once a week between 8am and 2pm, a nurse is available (if you're lucky)
- On Mondays prisoners are able to tell her their problems
- She writes down the names, prison number and medical problems in a notebook
- The nurse will then decide on the severity of the sickness
- If the prisoner is not seen as gravely ill, they are given one Panado pill
- If the prisoner really is sick, a doctors appointment is made for Thursday (if they even show up)

“I remember my first month in prison, a lady fell sick and she complained of chest pains, every time she went to see the nurse, she was given a Panado,” says Pearl Mabena*. Pearl, 31, is a former inmate at Sun City, where she spent 6 months awaiting trial before serving two years after a retail card scam went wrong.

“One evening the lady clutched at her chest and she collapsed. We banged on the door, screamed, tried everything and no one came, she fell, still holding her chest and she did not move the whole night, none of us could sleep. When the warders came the following morning to let us out of our cells, they took one look at her and said she was dead. We spent a night with a dead body, she could have been saved.”

Something that is usually kept private by women is menstruation. However, this is a different story for female prisoners who have to look for help from others for basic sanitary items. 

“My family used to visit me regularly, therefore I had enough cosmetics and this gave me the upper hand. Those who had no visits or came from poor families would wash, iron or share their food for a certain period, so they could get the basics,” says Thato Khumalo*, 24. Khumalo served a two-year term for possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition.

Pregnancy and childcare is another issue that is relevant to women. A lot of women were the caregivers of the family before getting sent to jail, some even had small children or were pregnant at the time. Babies up to the age of two years are allowed to stay with their mothers. According to research there are 3 749 women in correctional centres and only 84 of them have babies with them.

Former inmate, Moipone Nkwana, gave birth to her fifth child in prison. She was shackled to the bed and experienced first-hand the difficult conditions of pregnant women and mothers. She served four years for fraud.

According to a report, growing up in a prison can be traumatic, but it is often seen as the only option. Separation from a parent is also traumatic, which is why authorities try to make basic provisions.

There is often a lack in provisions for children born in prison, which puts children’s well-being at risk. Not enough is done to promote alternatives to custody for mothers with young children, for example: education and rehabilitation programmes or early conditional release.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around - get help for yourself or your loved one by contacting NICRO today!

Friday, 19 August 2016

I’m Raising my Baby in Prison

New mother Keisha is a natural as she attends to her baby son Jack. The mother-son bond is clearly secure and loving.

On the surface of it, little Jack’s surroundings are pretty idyllic. He has a comfortable cot, stimulating toys and a pram for walks.

Outside is a well-kept green lawn with colourful playground equipment. There are other mothers and babies nearby, an indoor play area and he undergoes his regular infant checks by health workers. To Jack, the world looks pretty good. And yet in truth his environment is anything but typical. For Keisha, 22, and Jack are living within the secure confines of Jacaranda Cottages mothers and babies unit at Emu Plains Correctional Centre in Sydney’s west.

While some may flinch at the idea of a baby living in prison, the alternative – a newborn being separated from their mother, even if circumstances are safe for them to be together – is arguably worse.

Being imprisoned as a new mother still has its challenges, such as having no freedom or autonomy and being constantly monitored by government departments, but it’s also an opportunity for inmates to take part in parenting programs and build an important bond with their baby.

At Jacaranda Cottages, babies and young children up to school age can live with their mum while she serves her sentence.

Here Keisha, who began taking drugs after falling in with the wrong crowd as a teenager, tells  what her life is like in jail and how the experience is shaping her future.

“My life is good at Jacaranda Cottages because I have been able to bond with my newborn son,” she says. “I was lucky to get onto the program as obviously there are some inmates who don’t meet the criteria. My daily routine is just like any other mother apart from having a head check (a headcount to ensure all inmates are present) at 6.30am. I then prepare my son’s day and the Mothers and Children’s program runs groups that we must attend, including parenting courses, art therapy and playgroup," she says.

“I get constant support from staff and other inmates too. When I was pregnant I had pre-natal checks and after Jack was born at the local public hospital under the guard of a prison officer, my family came down and stayed in a hotel in the area. This enabled them to meet my child and also gave me comfort of having them around at this special time.

If I hadn’t been able to keep Jack with me the alternative would have been for my baby to be cared for by my sister who is completing a nursing degree. She would have had to put her studies on hold until I was released.

I’ve been able to address my drug abuse issues while I serve my sentence and I feel confident when I am released that I will be a good mother and citizen.

Now I’m looking forward to getting back into the community. I’m going to create a positive future for myself and my son. I’m planning to do a TAFE course in business and I hope to bring my child up to be a fine young man.”

It wasn't until after Keisha was convicted of drug charges she learned she was pregnant. Inside Australian prisons life isn’t so bad for mother and child, but this isn’t always the case in different countries.

If you or a loved one is pregnant and has been charged with a criminal offense, arrested, etc. Contact NICRO right away to get help!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Why the rich shoplift more than the poor

Even though shoplifting is a serious crime and causes businesses to lose billions every year, it is still a crime that is often never reported.

Rachel Shteir, author of the new book The Steal, explains that people often feel less guilty for shoplifting when they see how much celebrities and rich people have.

It is almost like people think it is okay to steal because it seems so unimportant compared to what other people have.

Shteir's book takes a look at the history of shoplifting, from the first major incident in the 1800s to celebrities who steal.

Here's an interesting interview with Shteir...

Why is shoplifting so underreported and understudied compared to other crimes?

Because often the items people shoplift are tiny items, like lipstick or face cream. Most shoplifting is amateur shoplifting, meaning it’s not professional gang shoplifting, which is very hard to prosecute at the federal level. Most of it is done by ordinary people. Stores cannot possibly go after everyone who steals a tube of lipstick — it’s not practical from the stores’ point of view. So it’s a combination of the tininess of the objects and the fact that middle class people do it. People with a lot of money do it. And in the past, it’s been looked at as a women’s’ crime, and we trivialize anything that has to do with women, sadly.

In the book, you cite a study that finds Americans with incomes of $70,000 a year shoplift 30% more than those earning up to $20,000. Why is that?

Entitlement is certainly a factor. Rage is a factor. A lot of people feel that they are the victims in whatever way — whether it’s their life circumstances, or that they’re the victims of a larger economic plot. This creates an idea of avenging yourself on an impersonal entity, like a store. You see what others have and you think, ‘What difference does this make?’

Is there a class divide in prosecuting shoplifting?

It’s really rare for a celebrity shoplifter or a wealthy shoplifter to do any significant time. They really have to be chronic shoplifters. Otherwise, we forgive them. There’s a big discrepancy because we are very unsettled by the fact that people who don’t need to shoplift, do.

How do chronic, professional shoplifters affect the plight of amateur shoplifters?

The retail industry has tried to really separate the way it prosecutes professional gangs from amateur people shoplifting. Sometimes the categories of shoplifting get confusing, and that’s how ordinary people get hurt.

There’s a chapter in the book called “Robin Hoods 2.0.” Is there such a thing as ethical shoplifting?

There’s a pervasive idea that individuals are getting the raw deal, that stores are the true criminals. They’re multinationals, they can afford for people to shoplift, they’re insured — there are many things that people say. In that chapter, I’m just laying out what they say. It’s a very powerful theme in American life — the idea of the individual criminal, the outlaw, the pioneer, the person who’s living by their wits. I think that’s what this taps into.

In general, women mostly steal cosmetics and men steal electronics. What do those items say about the reasons we shoplift?

To me, it’s about people shoplifting to transform themselves, to try and make themselves into some idealized version. We’re trying to fashion ourselves into these stereotypes. So women are shoplifting cosmetics to make themselves beautiful and men are shoplifting tough He-Man type things.

You discuss several remedies for the crime: shame, rehab and psychoanalysis among them. Can shoplifting ever be stopped? And if so, what’s the best method?

As long as there are stores, there will be shoplifting. A lot of the anti-shoplifting devices that stores use have been proven to not work, or shoplifters find a way to get around them. Shame works for teenagers, but with Twitter and everything I don’t know whether shame will continue to have any effect on people. The one thing that works for stores is paying the people who work in them more. 

When people who work in retail are more invested, they tend to be more alert and concerned with the integrity of the business. They’re more active in trying to stop people from stealing.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around in South Africa. Don't let shoplifting take over yours or a loved ones life, contact NICRO today.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Are women more likely to get away with crime than men?

According to studies, men are more likely to commit a crime than women. However when we look at the sentencing times for men and women, some say that women get off easier with shorter sentences.

There is definitely gender prejudice in sentencing and most people are upset why this. Why do women get special treatment compared to men?

If you look at the issue through statistics, you will see how women are treated favourably, while men aren't given any leniency:

-- 63.3% of men who were sentenced in higher courts received a penalty of imprisonment, compared to just 46.7% of women.

-- Women get an average term of imprisonment of 42.4 months, compared to 60.3 months for men.

-- Male drunk drivers receive fines which are 9.7% higher than those received by women for the same offence.

-- Men are 1.73 times more likely to be sent to prison compared to women.

-- Men's prison sentences are, on average, 1.16 months longer than those received by women.

If we look at some factors that impact someone's prison sentence, such as criminal history, their decision to plead guilty and the charges faced, we also see that again male and females are treated very differently:

A male’s criminal history was given more weight compared to that of females – and generally meant that they received a harsher sentence.

When we look at this information, it leads us to see that it is in fact true that the law does show signs of gender prejudice. 

But what motivates women to commit crimes in the first place? Their reasons are far different to a man's reason for committing a crime. 

For instance, a study  found that women are more likely to be incarcerated for property, fraud and drug-related crimes, while men are more likely to be sent to prison for violent crimes such as assault and murder.

The study also found that women who commit crime are more likely to have experienced drug problems, physical and emotional abuse, and economic hardship when compared to their male counterparts. Researchers also identified five risk factors that increased the likelihood of a woman engaging in criminal activity: parental or familial issues, childhood abuse and neglect, mental illness, a lack of social support and association with other drug users.

In particular, a study found that the severity of a woman’s drug use “is more closely related to their criminality than it is for men, particularly for prostitution and property crime activities.”
Without accounting for these important considerations, it is impossible to accurately compare the treatment of men and women in the judicial system.

As stated, women often experience very different issues to men, and any “decrease” in the sentence may simply reflect these experiences. Indeed, if these matters were taken into account and similar cases were compared against one another, there might be very little difference in sentences.

In a society striving for, and largely achieving, sexual equality, no legitimate distinction can or should be drawn between offenders solely on the basis of gender.

NICRO is committed to turning lives around! Contact NICRO today, either to donate or to get help for yourself or a loved one! 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Crimes Women Are More Likely Than Men To Commit

When it comes to certain crimes, some are more common among women than men.

Women  are more like to go to prison because of fraud or robbery, while men are more likely to have committed violent crimes.

Female vs. Male Prisoners

Inmates by type of offense & gender:

Women – 12%
Men – 14%
Women – 2%
Men – 4%
Rape / sexual assault
Women – 2%
Men – 13%
Women – 9%
Men – 15%
Aggravated or simple assault
Women – 9%
Men – 11%
Women – 8%
Men – 10%
Women – 9%
Men – 3%
Motor vehicle theft
Women – 1%
Men – 2%
Women – 9%
Men – 2%
Drug possession
Women – 8%
Men – 4%
Women – 1%
Men – 2%

Women Behind Bars

Female prisoners broken down by type of offense:

Murder – 11.1%
Aggravated or simple assault – 8.9%
Robbery – 8.7%
Other violent – 3.7%
Manslaughter – 2.5%
Rape / sexual assault – 2.3%
Larceny-theft – 9.1%
Fraud – 8.4%
Burglary – 6.9%
Other property – 3%
Motor vehicle theft – 0.8%
Other drug – 17.9%
Drug possession – 6.7%
Public order – 8.9%
Other – 1.2%

NICRO is committed to turning lives around and creating a better South Africa - contact NICRO today, or take a look at for a selection of services.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Visit to NICRO Mpumalanga on 27 July 2016

NICRO Nelspruit office had the privilege to receive Ms. Carol van der Rheede (General Manager and Community Engagement) and Mr. Wonga Tola (Student Support and Community Engagement Administrator) of the HCI Foundation for a visit on the 27th of July. 

HCI Foundation’s primary focus is on promoting education and skills development in South Africa. HCI supports the youth development and empowerment services of NICRO through our youth life skills programme, named YES (Youth Empowerment Scheme).

They engaged with the Area manager, Claudine MarĂ© and Nelspruit Supervisor, Nomagugu Dube as well as 5 of our young beneficiaries during the visit. It was a privilege to share NICRO’s successful implementation of not only our YES programme, but also the variety of our youth Diversion programmes. These programmes are utilised on a psycho-educational and therapeutic level as to empower and create change in the lives of young people that are in conflict with the law, or displaying high risk behaviour. The process of Diversion in line with the Child Justice Act 38/2005 when the magistrate courts refer youth to NICRO was explained as well as NICRO’s direct engagement with local schools and families.

Our visitors experienced the meeting with 5 of the young boys that attended both our YES programme as well as Journey programme (a nature-based therapeutic camp) very positively. The boys shared what they learned through the NICRO programmes – such as how to communicate better, deal with one’s anger, being able to work within a team and changing their lives for the better. They all have positive plans for the future and experienced that NICRO assisted them in learning how to refrain from crime and make positive decisions for a better, brighter future.