NICRO was first established in 1910 as the Prisoner’s Aid Association and has a rich history in human rights, prison and criminal justice reform.
Today, NICRO has offices in all nine provinces, rendering services from more than 50 accessible service points throughout South Africa. NICRO’s Head Office is based in Cape Town and has the following departments:
• Business Development Unit
• Human Resources
• Research and Development
Soraya Solomon is the Chief Executive Officer of NICRO. She has been with NICRO since 1986, having previously worked as a social worker, manager of youth development services and provincial director of the Western Cape. Soraya holds a Masters degree in Social Science and also has attended numerous courses locally and in the United States of America including Street Law Training and Juvenile Delinquency.
Celia Dawson is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer. Celia has been with NICRO since 1997. Her qualifications include; MSc in Social Policy and planning in Developing Countries at the University of London, Honours in Social Science at the University of Natal as well as a degrees from the University of Stellenbosch and University of Western Cape. She is currently studying towards a Doctorate in Indigenous Research.
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NICRO is a registered Non-Profit Organisation, and receives funding from government, South African corporate donors, private individuals and international donors.
History and Accomplishments
NICRO was founded by Justice Mr J de Villiers Roos on September 6, 1910 as the South African Prisoners’ Aid Association (SPAA), the first countrywide organisation of its kind providing assistance and after-care support services to prisoners and their families. Prior to this, the Salvation Army, as part of their activities, provided accommodation for released prisoners.
More than 100 years later, NICRO has changed its name and image, pioneered diversion and non-custodial sentencing in South Africa, helped launch probation services and community services and otherwise made a significant contribution to the welfare of all South Africans.
NICRO Milestones (1910 – present)
- 1910-The establishment of the South African Prisoners’ Aid Association (SPAA) in Pretoria
- 1910 – 1912-SPAA branches open in Durban, Cape Town, Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein and Kimberley
- 1918-Following SPAA’s energetic efforts, probation services are introduced for the first time and one Probation Officer and two Inspectors of Apprentices are appointed
- 1935-The South African Prisoners’ Aid Association and the Probation Association of South Africa (established in 1932) amalgamate to form the Social Services Association of South Africa (SSASA)
- 1935 – 1959-The Prisoners Friend Service, the forerunner of the current independent Prison Visitors initiative introduced by the Office of the Inspecting Judge of Prisons, is introduced and by 1959, is operational at 16 courts
- 1938-The first trained social worker is appointed in Cape Town
- 1952-Prison Sunday: 4,000 churches and faith groups participate in the first official Day of Prayer for Prisoners
- 1960-The Prisoners Friend Service is taken over by the Department of Justice following recommendations by the Lansdowne and the Du Plessis Commissions
- 1961 – 1990-Countrywide expansion of service which include research, crime prevention, awareness and publicity initiatives and well as the distribution of educational materials, several publications and journals
- 1975-A number of criminological works in a series entitled South African Studies in Criminology are published
- 1979-NICRO pioneers community service orders in Cape Town as an alternative to imprisonment, an initiative which has a profound and lasting impact on NICRO’s service delivery, as embodied in the Diversion Programme
- 1986-Support services to victims of political unrest and political detainees are officially sanctioned
Late 1980s-NICRO begins rendering services to victims and witnesses of crime and violence, and victim support services, known as the Action For Safety programme, are formally introduced
- 1990-NICRO commits to appointing staff on a non-racial basis and to delivering services on a needs basis in defiance of state policy and the organisation risks losing state funding
- 1992-Justice for the Children: No Child should be Caged campaign is launched by NICRO, the Lawyers for Human Rights and the Community Law Centre at the University of Cape Town after 13-year old Neville Snyman held on charges of shoplifting is brutally murdered by cell mates in the small town of Robertson in the Western Cape
- 1992-NICRO, senior state prosecutors and Lawyers for Human Rights launch the first formalised diversion programme in South Africa in Pietermaritzburg and Cape Town, handling nearly 200 cases in the first 18 months
- 1992-NICRO officially takes an abolitionist stance against the death penalty
- 1993 – 1996-The Diversion Programmes expands nationally and new interventions are developed and introduced: the Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), the Journey Leadership Programme and Family Group Conferencing
- 2001-NICRO embarks on a strategic change process to review the past and plan a new future for the organisation
- October 2003-NICRO’s new organisational vision, mission and strategic objectives are presented and accepted at the Biennial General Meeting
- 2006-NICRO hosts a national colloquium for stakeholders from the judicial sector to discuss alternatives to imprisonment
- 2007-NICRO adopts a new legal identity and is officially registered as a Section 21 Company (Not for Gain)
- 2008-NICRO launches its Non-Custodial Sentencing Service
- 2010-NICRO’s centenary year marks radical changes to the organisation’s business model and a total commitment to achieving organisational effectiveness, efficiency, long-term sustainability and overall macro success. NICRO, driven by its vision for a safe South Africa, currently pursues five high level strategic themes:
- Exponential funding growth,
- Service excellence,
- Transformed organisation,
- Visible national impact, and
- Social enterprise.