Dealing with Crime in A Different Way

crimeTwenty year old Gugu was convicted for fraud when she stole her friend’s ATM card, withdrew money and used the card to buy an expensive cellphone worth R1000.00. Her friend realised that money was being withdrawn from her account when she received the banking sms. The friend went to the police and opened a case against Gugu, who was arrested and charged.

Gugu was referred to NICRO for a non-custodial sentencing suitability assessment and was found to be suitable. The assessment showed Gugu to be a young woman with low risk of re-offending and that she had dropped out of school through poor judgement despite doing well academically. This history of bad decision-making could be addressed through a community-base sentence and did not require that Gugu be removed from society.

During the assessment process, the victim was given an opportunity to give input about the effect the crime had on her. The situation was particularly difficult as the friend did not want Gugu to go to prison, but still felt that something needed to be done about the situation.

The NICRO social worker submitted the court report with recommendations to the magistrate, who sentenced Gugu to a suspended sentence with the requirement that she attend a NICRO programme, undergo Victim Offender mediation and formally apologize to her friend.

Gugu took the second chance given to her seriously, and plans regarding her return to formal education were included in her treatment plan with the NICRO social worker.

The social worker assisted Gugu to secure a place at a local high school in Grade 10. Work with Gugu continues, but she has shown a positive attitude and commitment towards her renewed studies.

Is this not a better way of dealing with this kind of offences than sending all offenders to jail? If Gugu was sent to jail, what would her prospects have been when she was finally released back into the community? At least now she has received help and is in a better position to lead a crime-free life than before. The same cannot be said for those coming out of prison.

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