On 6 September 1910, 110 years ago, NICRO was founded by Justice J de Villiers Roos as the South African Prisoners' Aid Association (SPAA) in Pretoria. Specialising in social crime prevention, NICRO boasts a rich, unparalleled history in human rights, juvenile justice and criminal justice reform.
NICRO retains pride of place as a prominent frontrunner in the concerted fight to combat crime and violence in South Africa. An acknowledged and highly acclaimed leader in its field, NICRO is one of South Africa's largest, most enduring indigenous civil society organisations. Through its comprehensive, tried and tested crime prevention services, NICRO continues to enjoy widespread recognition as the preferred service provider in the criminal justice sector. All interventions are geared towards creating conditions in which the opportunities and motivation for committing crime are significantly reduced and ultimately eliminated.
Not only has NICRO existed for 11 decades; the organisation has gone from strength to strength, boasting shining examples of ground-breaking and pioneering contributions to both South African society and the criminal justice system. This distinction can be directly attributed to the abiding relevance of the organisation’s philosophy and mission: to build and strengthen a democratic society based on human rights. In 1910, this philosophy was unique and not too popular. In those days it was believed that the appropriate fate of all criminals was incarceration but what was even more novel in 1910, was that NICRO had already set its face against racism from the very beginning.
The Apartheid days brought difficult challenges for NICRO. A non-racial organisation was regarded with great suspicion at the time. As a result, NICRO played a key role during the state of emergency in the late 1980s, successfully facilitating family contact with thousands who found themselves in detention.
For more than a century NICRO has sought and introduced innovative solutions to the many and varied problems in our society always staying relevant. NICRO played a crucial role in convincing the authorities of the benefits of restorative rather than punitive justice in respect of less serious and non-violent crime. Much of the organisation’s pioneering work continues to form the very backbone of contemporary criminal justice practice, including:
- The supervision of prisoners released on probation along with those who receive a suspended sentence, which dates back to the early 1930,
- Community service, introduced by NICRO as an alternative to incarceration during the 1970s,
- Diversion, an embodiment of and a crucial vehicle for restorative justice pioneered by NICRO in the early 1990s, and
- • Non-custodial sentencing as an alternative to serving a prison term.
In the words of President Cyril Ramaphosa during his February 2020 State of the Nation Address, “Investment and growth require a safe, stable and crime free environment. More importantly, it is a fundamental to the aspirations of our people to live in security, peace and comfort”.
As NICRO continues into its second century of service delivery, the organisation recommits itself to its own and President Ramaphosa’s shared vision for the future and building communities in which our people are safe, free from the fear of crime and have the opportunity to prosper. To this end NICRO works collaboratively with key stakeholders to identify systemic challenges in the communities we serve, while shaping and implementing innovative solutions that will have the greatest impact and address the many interrelated factors, including gender-based violence, rape, substance abuse, poverty and many others contributing towards a lack of safety and the commission of crime and violence in our country.
NICRO is able to celebrate the remarkable achievements and successes of the past 110 years, thanks to its partners, stakeholders and funders who have bolstered the organisation’s efforts to realise its vision of a safe, healthy, crime-free South Africa. In this regard, NICRO pays tribute to and salutes the Department Social Development, the National Lottery Commission, aware.org, corporate South Africa, charitable trusts and foundations and other grant making agencies as well as our individual donors for their dedicated support, generosity and belief in our cause.
ISSUED BY NATIONAL DIRECTOR OPERATIONS BETZI PIERCE ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON, BOARD OF DIRECTORS AND STAFF OF NICRO.