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Comment of the week

Soraya Solomon

Nicro CEO

 

We've been speaking for too long, we've got to take action.

We need YOU!

"If you change nothing - Nothing will change"

We are calling on ALL South Africans to join us in BEING the change we want in our country. Find out how you can play a part in doing something about crime and its impact on our society. 

1.  Rationale for the Intervention

Substance abuse has reached unprecedented crisis levels throughout South Africa. It reaches across social, racial, cultural, language, religious and gender boundaries, affecting every South African, either directly or indirectly. The scourge of substance abuse continues to ravage South African communities and families. Drug and alcohol abuse is particularly challenging because it goes hand in hand with poverty, reduced productivity, unemployment, dysfunctional family life and the disintegration of the fabric of society. It also promotes crime and violence, as well as the escalation of chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

Alcohol is still the most commonly abused drug in South Africa. Several studies have found that most murders are committed by people under the influence of alcohol, that alcohol is frequently associated with abuse within relationships and that alcohol has been present in many violent offences such as rape and assault. Research papers presented at a substance abuse summit hosted by the Department of Social Development in 2012 revealed that about 65% of murders in South Africa were associated with social behaviour largely fuelled by alcohol abuse. It was also shown that alcohol intoxication was associated with many deaths arising from motor vehicle accidents, other injuries and with increased risky sexual behaviour.

Alcohol is a causal factor for:

  • Intentional and unintentional injuries and harm to people other than the drinker,
  • Reduced job performance,
  • Absenteeism,
  • Family deprivation,
  • Interpersonal violence,
  • Suicide,
  • Homicide,
  • Crime, and
  • Fatalities caused by driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Alcohol is also a contributory factor for:

  • Risky sexual behaviour,
  • Sexually transmitted diseases,
  • HIV infection,
  • Low birth weight,
  • Cognitive deficiencies, and
  • Foetal alcohol disorders.

There is little doubt that alcohol abuse is devastating society, aggravating crime and poverty, and contributing to violence in South Africa. Most South Africans have grown up in an environment where alcohol abuse is commonplace within the family as well as the community. Not only is South Africa reported to have one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption per capita in the world; it also falls in the group of countries exhibiting the most hazardous patterns of drinking indicted by the level of the population drinking first thing in the morning, drinking to intoxication, drinking apart from meals and driving under the influence. Drunk driving, in particular, is one of the biggest threats to road safety in our country. Research indicates that at least 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit of 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres and that alcohol is the cause of no less that 65% of all traffic accidents.

2.  Introduction to the NICRO Solution: the Road Offences Panel Programme

The South African Police Services report that, on average, some 195 people are arrested each day for driving under the influence (DUI), and that 71 065 DUI arrests were made in the year 2012 to 2013. Drunk driving, in particular, is one of the greatest threats to road safety in our country, with research indicating that at least 50% of people who die on the roads have a blood alcohol concentration above the legal limit. As a result, NICRO developed a specialised intervention, the Road Offences Panel Programme which has been tried and tested in and around Cape Town, in 2010 to address the challenge of growing numbers of offenders arrested and entering the criminal justice system for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), whether for first time offences or as repeat offenders.

NICRO believes that incarceration is not the best option for offenders who have been convicted of driving under the influence. Sending such offenders to prison simply exacerbates the problem. Theoretically, imprisonment should bring about significant behavioural change as well as improved education and training. Unfortunately this does not occur on the scale required in the current South African context of critical overcrowding and deteriorating prison conditions. Imprisonment is not conducive to optimal rehabilitation or the successful reintegration of offenders. It has been well documented that within the context of overcrowded and under-resourced South African prisons, rehabilitation cannot occur. Studies have also shown that short-term incarceration has no value in terms of rehabilitation.

Furthermore, most offenders, once incarcerated, are exposed to hardened criminals who eagerly share their crime skills, leading them down a path of far more serious crimes, particularly if they are disconnected from their families, communities and places of work and worship.

This initiative allows suitable DUI offenders who have been found guilty, and sentenced, to participate in this special educational programme and carry out their sentences in the community. Although the consequences of the drunken driving offence will not involve going to prison, such offenders will nevertheless have a criminal record.

3. Purpose of the Programme

This NICRO Road Offences Panel Programme has been structured as a short, didactic, educational group-based intervention designed specifically to improve awareness of the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence, as well as reckless and negligent driving. The programme is not intended as a therapeutic behaviour change programme, although it can be rendered in combination with other therapeutic programmes. Its purpose is to have a positive influence on reducing drunk driving and keeping South Africans safe on the road.

The programme specifically aims to educate the offender about:

  • The dangers to oneself and others while driving a vehicle and using alcohol
  • Statistics re motor vehicle accidents
  • The benefits of responsible drinking
  • The rights of other road users and pedestrians
  • How to be a responsible driver
  • What roadworthiness means
  • The consequences of offending behaviour
  • And challenge their thinking around their behaviour.

4. Target Group

This programme is suitable for adult offenders arrested and diverted or convicted for:

  • Driving under the influence (DUI),
  • Reckless and negligent driving, and
  • Culpable homicide, which results in a road death.

NICRO draws a clear distinction between the different kinds of offenders who may be referred for the Road Offences Panel Programme, and tailors a special intervention or combination of interventions and support services for each, depending on his/her specific risk profile and needs:

In the event that the offender requires additional services, any combination of NICRO’s therapeutic interventions and support services can be included in the beneficiary’s individual treatment / intervention plan.

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