NICRO and the Road Offences Panel Programme

Who is NICRO?

NICRO is a is a registered NPO, first established in 1910 as the Prisoner’s Aid Association,  with a rich history in human rights, prison and criminal justice reform.

NICRO = National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Rehabilitation of Offenders

NICRO’s vision: To build and strengthen a democratic society based on human rights principles through crime prevention and development.

NICRO’s aim: NICRO provides constructive solutions to prevent and reduce crime throughout South Africa by offering comprehensive therapeutic, holistic and developmental life skills programmes for offenders, their families and their victims and build the capacity of communities and individuals to turn their backs on crime.


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
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Research and Development

How do NICRO make South Africa a Safer Place?


Steering highly vulnerable, at-risk young people away from crime with crime prevention initiatives such as the Safety Ambassador’s Programme/ School based crime prevention programme


Providing programmes for Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence, supporting and empowering abused women and survivors of domestic violence and


Diverting child, youth & adult offenders, mainly first-time offenders, away from the formal criminal justice system into specialist developmental and therapeutic programmes that prevent re-offending and reduce crime


Providing constructive, highly feasible alternatives to imprisonment for those convicted of less serious, non-violent crimes which succeed in teaching, developing and effectively breaking the cycle of crime


Providing transformation and development opportunities to prisoners and facilitating rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society as productive, responsible, law abiding citizens who are an asset, rather than a danger or burden


Empowering and teaching others through community outreach and awareness as well as formal training programmes to contribute towards the fight against crime.

The NICRO Road Offences Panel Programme

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:

Type of Offender

Risk Level


First time, frequently once-off offender with no or very few other behavioural issues present

Low risk

Less intensive intervention (Road Offences Panel Programme), which is mostly didactic (instructive and education)

First time DUI / reckless and negligent offender with Other Behavioural Issues Present

Low to medium risk

Combination of Road Offences Panel Programme and:

·      Counselling

·      Therapy

·      Adult life skills

Repeat offender / first time DUI / reckless and negligent offender with indicators of addiction and / or other behavioural issues

Medium to high risk

Intensive intervention consisting of:

·      Substance abuse intervention and

·      Substance addiction intervention.


Followed by:

·      Counselling

·      Therapy

·      Adult life skills, and


Concluding with:

·      Community Service Learning

·      Restorative Group Conferences

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. (Please refer to pages 10 to 12 for a very brief description of these interventions and services).

It is anticipate that NICRO will implement the Road Offences Panel Programme for the following beneficiaries during the next twelve months:


Number of Beneficiaries

Eastern Cape


Free State


Gauteng **








Northern Cape




** Funding is being requested for programmes to be conducted in Gauteng

5. Programme Structure and Content

The first two sessions of the five session group-based programme incorporate special presentations by the following stakeholders, who comprise the Road Offence Panel:

  • South African Police Services (SAPS)
  • Members of the Department of Community Safety
  • Members of the local Traffic Department
  • The Automobile Association
  • Alcoholic Anonymous
  • South Africans Against Drunk Driving

Much of the learning in the programme emerges from the reflective practice exercises that the participants complete. The purpose of reflective practice exercises is to:

  • Teach people to reflect and think about the way they think, and
  • To facilitate personal learning and growth from reflection.

Session Number

Session Description

Session 1: Introduction to the Road Offences Panel Programme

Session 1 opens the intervention. Attendance registers are kept for all five sessions. Session 1 includes a brief overview of the key outcomes of the Road Offences Panel Programme sessions and of the intervention as a whole. Basic housekeeping issues are covered in this session. The group also works through development of and agreement to basic ground rules for the intervention. The session is concluded with a few presentations from various stakeholders and government departments to illustrate the negative consequences of road offences.

Session 2: Impact of DUI and Reckless Driving

Session 2 explores the impact of reckless and negligent as well as DUI on other road users, as well as on the offenders themselves. Speakers from various organisations and government departments (including the Automobile Association, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Department of Community Safety, representatives from the Traffic Department and local correctional facilities) present material to illustrate the negative consequences and impact of road offences.

Session 3: Group Activities

Session 3 includes two group activities, one of which is compulsory and a second activity which includes two choices. The session begins with an icebreaker activity, the buzz group activity. The second activity is one of the two options: either a debate or a group discussion. Participants are given a homework assignment and are required to follow up with the facilitator within two weeks.

Session 4: Evaluation Phase

Session 4 comprises a Road Offences Panel Programme client focus group, which is conducted by a NICRO staff member other than the facilitator. Various aspects concerning NICRO, its facilities, staff, service delivery and the product itself are explored with participants, who provide feedback about that which they found of crucial importance, identified as needing improvement, found useful / applicable or rated highly and expressed their satisfaction about.

Session 5: Follow-up Phase

Session 5 is an individual intervention in which each participant is seen in a private, follow-up session. During this session, the facilitator reviews and discusses learning and growth with the participant. Each participant also completes the post-test and client satisfaction survey. Arrangements for further counselling or other interventions take place at this session.


The size of the group does not exceed ten participants.

6. How the Process Works

Programme participants are usually referred by the court. Once the offender has been referred to NICRO, s/he will undergo a general assessment in order to compile a court report which indicates suitability to participate in interventions at NICRO. As part of this process the assessor could recommend participation in the Road Offences Panel Programme as well as other NICRO interventions, depending on the needs and risk profile of the client. Once the court has agreed to NICRO’s recommendations, the client enters specialised assessment process with the programme facilitator in order to determine and develop a specific, individual needs-based treatment / intervention plan.

7.  Basket of Services

Holistic intake, assessment and case management services are provided for each offender accepted for participation in the Road Offences Panel Programme. The following provides a brief account of these services as well as other interventions which the client may receive:

Services / Intervention

Brief Description


A formal request for an assessment is submitted to a NICRO social worker who conducts an assessment to determine suitability for inclusion in NICRO services. Various assessment tools are used depending on the needs of the offender. Such tools include cognitive, attitudinal and behavioural assessment tools. Continuous or on-going assessments are also provided. Specialised assessments pertaining to sexual offences, substance abuse, parenting and domestic violence are also available.

Individual counselling

Counselling is conducted by a social worker and addresses issues specific to the individual offender.

Intensive therapy

As above, but on a more intensive and therapeutic level. This service is also used for groups and families as well as individuals.

Tracking and after-care

This service is incorporated into all NICRO interventions. All offenders receive after-care for up to 12 months and undergo progress tracking.


NICRO social workers write an assessment report for each participant referred to the programme and this report is submitted to court. They also provide feedback or progress reports. Copies of these reports are also contained in client’s case file and the Road Offences Panel Programme file.

Evidence in court

NICRO social workers are available to give evidence in court on the assessments and reports they have written.

ADAPT (Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment)

An intervention designed specifically for the assessment, prevention and treatment of offenders in conflict with the law who present with drug-related behaviour problems. ADAPT aims to equip the offender with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to make informed and healthy choices regarding drug use. It also aims to aims to prevent the establishment of a pattern of drug abuse and to reduce the chances of on-going criminal and delinquent behaviour. Drug testing forms a part of this intervention. It is not suitable for offenders who are addicted to substances.

Community Service Orders / Learning

Offers diverted or sentenced offenders the opportunity of serving the community they have wronged by performing a set number of hours of voluntary work at community services centres or other public institutions rather than appearing in court or serving a prison sentence. The court order specifies how many hours of community service are to be completed and compliance is strictly monitored.

The Journey

The Journey is an intensive experiential intervention aimed at high-risk youth whose behaviour necessitates placement outside the natural home or community environment. The programme focuses primarily on creating an awareness of personal and societal consequences as well as the effects of crime and is based on life skills. The Journey caters mainly for youth with severe behavioural and emotionally challenging behaviours. The outdoor, wilderness component is designed to develop and test trust, perseverance and conflict resolution skills while building self-esteem and confidence, in addition to teaching values.

Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES)

A youth life skills programme which seeks to influence major social and psychological factors that contribute to and promote early involvement in and the onset of a delinquent and high-risk lifestyle. The programme seeks to enhance and strength resilience, resistance, personal self-management and the general social skills of young offenders.

Adult Life Skills

A programme for adults which addresses life skills development and provides life skills enhancement opportunities. It is essentially an adult version of the Youth Empowerment Scheme (below)


The 42-week Matrix Programme is an intensive and comprehensive drug rehabilitation programme for offenders, which provides relapse prevention, group support and personal self-development opportunities. Drug testing forms part of the programme.

Me and My Family

A programme for male offenders that addresses the inter-generational effects of criminal behaviour. The programme seeks to prevent the male children of male offenders from following in their father’s footsteps.

Programme for Perpetrators of Intimate Partner Violence (PIPV)

This is a 20-week intervention for perpetrators of domestic violence with the goal of breaking the cycle of violence, holding perpetrators accountable for their abusive behaviour and ensuring the safety of the partner and children. The programme includes a combination of individual, group and couple / family interventions. All intervention modalities are based on a cognitive behavioural approach that is implemented primarily in a group format.

Positive Parenting Programme

This is a programme designed to enhance the parenting skills of parents of our clients, or for clients who are parents themselves.

Services / Intervention

Brief Description

Restorative Group Conferencing (RGC) /

Victim Offender Mediation (VOM)/ Family Group Conferencing (FGC)

These interventions offer an opportunity for mediation between the offender and his/her victim(s). The idea is to promote the restorative justice principle of rebuilding disruptive relationships, to explore ways to correct the wrong for both the victim and the community, and to make plans to prevent the offender from re-offending in future. These options, which also include restorative panels as well as victim impact panels, seek to promote restoration, reconciliation and healing.

Tracking and After-Care

This service is incorporated into all NICRO programmes. All participants, will receive after-care services for up to 12 months and undergo progress tracking. Additional follow-up services are provided to participants having a profile of additional risk factors which may incorporate home visits and referrals to other relevant welfare organisations or service providers for more in-depth, appropriate services.

8. Anticipated Outcomes and Benefits of Intervention

If we are to fight DUI in a meaningful and effective way, we cannot simply punish those driving under the influence without addressing the faulty thinking patterns and behaviours which are responsible for this. The Road Offences Panel Programme not only ensures that offenders avoid going to trial, possible incarceration and a criminal record, if diverted; they are afforded a remarkable opportunity to change cognitive distortions (faulty thinking) and unacceptable behaviour, repair the damage they have caused and acquire fundamental life skills to avoid further problems with alcohol.

It is anticipated that the Road Offences Panel Programme will have a positive influence on reducing drunk driving and keeping South Africans safe on the road. Not only has this venture already reduced the workload and lessened the burden on the formal criminal justice system, but it has demonstrated that a more appropriate and nuanced intervention as a response to drunken driving has more chance of meeting with success. It has also redefined the definition of success, looking at not only retributive responses such as fines or incarceration, but also to behavioural approaches with the aim of building knowledge, cultivating insight and changing offender behaviour with a view to reducing re-offending and, in so doing, making our roads and country safer.

In addition to incorporating a powerful educational and awareness component, this needs-driven intervention also manages risks and addresses the behaviours that caused the drunken driving offence in the first place.

Another aspect of the early success of the Road Offences Panel Programme is its demonstration of partnership possibilities between public – private and non-profit entities. In this model government, through its criminal justice apparatus, is not expected to shoulder the burden of crime and the consequences of wrong doing by itself. Private entities, such as corporate funders / stakeholders in the industry, are afforded the chance of assuming accountability for unintended consequences of the irresponsible use of alcoholic products, while NICRO demonstrates its expertise and effectiveness in implementing behaviour change programmes. Without the support from corporates local civil society organisations will continue to struggle to deliver the much needed services.

Recently, one of the participants of the Road Offences Panel Programme had this to say (verbatim): “NICRO taught me, how alcohol affects your consciousness, it minimises your concentration, your reflexes and your abilities to make informed decision. Other than that, the programme made me reflect on my life, how much is at stake if something would happen to me. Drinking and driving is becoming the least of my problems. I am dealing with it much better, continuously guarding others on the danger and finding better ways to socialize. I would like to recommend that the NICRO program be included before anyone gets the driving licence, lack of knowledge leads us to take these un informed decisions” Another participant simply said “Lots of South Africans will benefit from lessons from this programme”

9.  Motivation for Support, Acknowledgements and Testimonials

"The programme is a form of very creative justice, in that it gives accused persons an opportunity to reflect positively on their wrongdoing and thus prevent possible similar future acts that could have had more devastating consequences for them and other road users,” says David Frost Deputy Director Road Safety Management.

Dr Vincent Maphai, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs and Transformation of funding partner, South African Breweries (SAB Ltd, is full of praise for this intervention and the possibilities for joint ventures: "Government, communities, business and the NGO community need to pool their resources. There is no social problem which was ever resolved by one sector of society on its own,” he says.

This multi-faceted intervention, which highlights the legal implications of driving under the influence and underscores how serious drunk driving charges are, also has the support of the National Prosecuting Authority. The programme’s ability to clearly demonstrate how alcohol abuse affects one’s life and negatively influences decisions, and the extent to which it offers participants opportunities to avoid future problems with alcohol and conflict with the law, is very encouraging.

“The Road Offences Panel Programme is, in my view, one of the most fantastic initiatives that has been implemented in terms of programmes to assist with road safety issues. It puts the onus on the offender to take responsibility for his/her actions whilst providing the offender with valuable information on his/her transgressions coming directly from the panel members through their experiences and knowledge. Although I understand that not all offenders will be rehabilitated by means of this programme, I am confident that this programme can, in certain instances, be more beneficial to the offender than a fine, criminal record or even incarceration. In fact, I have met people who have been on some of our first programmes who have come up to me and discussed the programme and thanked everyone concerned, from NICRO to the panel members for the way in which this programme is set out and presented. One can just see how the Road Offences Panel Programme has grown over the last year to realise what a success this programme has been and it might even pave the way for future programmes involving different offences,” comments Adrian Long, Principal Inspector Technical Services, Cape Town Traffic Services.

“This office often receives representations where it is clear that the offender must be given a second chance, but at the same time the seriousness of the offence must be brought to the attention of the offender. In such circumstances this office requires as part of the output, rehabilitation and subsequent prevention. This programme meets all the requirements and is a huge asset for the criminal justice system,” says Adv. C Van der Vijver, Senior State Advocate.

Tanya Nöckler Attorneys has this to say about the intervention: “From my point of view, as an attorney, it has been very gratifying to be able to assist clients in educating themselves. I believe that the knowledge gained from the programme has far more lasting and long-term benefits than simply going through a court process and paying a fine”.

10.  Monitoring and Evaluation (Assessing Progress towards Achieving Desired Outcomes)

At NICRO, overall standard monitoring procedures to ensure quality service delivery and the provision of technical assistance to grassroots programme implementation is accomplished through:

  • Teleconferences with area managers and social work supervisors who are located within NICRO’s service delivery offices
  • Site visits  to provinces to conduct quality assurance activities
  • Project progress reports
  • Monthly statistics
  • Half-yearly qualitative and quantitative  provincial / national assessments
  • Year-end programme evaluation and impact evaluations.

Service deliverers located within the provinces are guided and coached by their supervisors who, in turn, report to their area managers. Supervisors are responsible for monitoring the quality of service delivery, client satisfaction and client progress. Supervisors are also responsible for providing professional guidance and continuous professional development. Monitoring also involves:

  • Individual supervision and personal development of the social worker,
  • Group supervision,
  • Progress reports and monthly statistics,
  • Submission of quarterly qualitative progress reports.

During the Road Offences Panel Programme pre-test and post-test observation data relating to various aspects of personal and social capacities as well as personal effectiveness areas are collected through observation tables and questionnaires. Process notes, observation during the implementation of the sessions and especially the evaluation sessions (Session 4 and 5) are used to track behaviour and the general progress of the participants. Evaluation questionnaires evaluate NICRO as a service provider, facilitator effectiveness and programme impact.

In summary the evaluation tools used include:

  • Pre- test and post-test questionnaires,
  • Participant observation and process notes
  • Evaluation questionnaires completed by group participants.
  • Questionnaires completed by stakeholders
  • Participant focus groups

For more info visit the website of NICRO at

Also view:

Drunk Driving and Road Safety

SADD and Road Safety

Crime as a Threat to Road Safety