The National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) has joined forces with South African Breweries (SAB) and Arrive Alive in a unique alcohol and road offences initiative geared towards addressing drunk driving. A dedicated hotline to assist South African drivers facing criminal charges with regards to road traffic offences such as driving under the influence of intoxicating substances and reckless and negligent driving, will be launched in the Western Cape on 21 November 2014 and run through until 31 January 2015.
By calling this 24 hour hotline, DUI offenders who are at least 18 years of age will gain access to immediate, critical support and possible inclusion into NICRO interventions such as counselling, the Road Offences Panel Programme and Community Service. These interventions allow DUI offenders who have been carefully assessed and found suitable, to participate in needs based behavioural and psycho-educational interventions and programmes, either as a diversion or non custodial sentencing option.
All interventions, dealing with DUI offenders are specifically designed to improve the offender’s awareness of the dangers and consequences of driving under the influence, as well as reckless and negligent driving. The road offenses panel programme, which is mainly a psycho-educational programme, is rendered in combination with other therapeutic programmes, as indicated by the individual person’s need during assessment. Its purpose is to have a positive influence on reducing the incidence of drunk driving and keeping South Africans safe on the road.
NICRO CEO, Soraya Solomon, underscores that this programme is not a soft option or a get-out-of-jail-free card. “Although the consequences of the drunken driving offence will not involve going to prison, such offenders will nevertheless be held accountable and if sentenced to a non-custodial option will receive a criminal record. They will be required to take responsibility, make amends and face up to the consequences of their actions”, Solomon explains.
NICRO firmly believes that incarceration is not the best option for offenders who have been convicted of DUI offenses. Sitting behind bars without structured rehabilitation interventions does nothing to change a person’s behaviour. Thousands of sentenced offenders are sent to prison and are later released with the same behavioural problems or, at times, problems that have been exacerbated. Being locked up with hardened criminals who exhibit extreme criminal behaviour and thought patterns hardly serves as an encouragement to behaviour change. In contrast, the prison experience may lead the DUI offender down a path of more serious crime.
NICRO, SAB and Arrive Alive are optimistic about South Africans’ willingness to embrace new ways of tackling the challenges of drunk driving and the valuable contribution that the new DUI hotline will make by facilitating access to a specialist intervention which will help demonstrate how detrimental alcohol abuse can be. In addition to having a positive influence on reducing drunk driving and improving road safety, and equipping DUI offenders to steer clear of further problems with alcohol abuse, this alcohol and road offences initiative will also dramatically reduce the workload and lessen the burden on the formal criminal justice system.