The institute, founded in Pretoria by Justice J de Villiers Roos as the SA Prisoners’ Aid Association, specialises in the prevention of crime and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into society.
Nicro played a critical role in ensuring the rights of political prisoners were upheld and their well-being attended to during the apartheid era, and has a rich history of bringing reform to the criminal justice system, which includes the way juvenile offenders are dealt with.
“It is an incredible milestone for a civil society organisation to reach, as we continue to strive to divert people from a life of crime,” chief executive Soraya Solomon said.
Nicro has become one of South Africa’s largest and most enduring civil society organisations - providing comprehensive crime-reduction and crime-prevention services.
“A lot of our work has been enshrined in our criminal justice system, but despite this, we do face many challenges, among them funding. But we have stability,” Solomon said.
During apartheid Nicro, a non-racial organisation, was treated with great suspicion by the then authorities, she said.
The organisation played a crucial role during the State of Emergency in the late 1980s, facilitating family contact for thousands of activists in detention. Among the political prisoners it assisted was Struggle lawyer Bram Fischer, who was sentenced to life imprisonment. Fischer led Nelson Mandela’s legal defence team during the Rivonia Trial of 1963-1964.
Nicro has played a crucial role in convincing the authorities to implement restorative justice in respect of less serious and non-violent crime.
Solomon said a lot of Nicro’s pioneering work formed the backbone of the contemporary criminal justice system, which included the supervision of prisoners released on probation along with those who received suspended sentences.