Dear Diary: Social exclusion really hurts . . .


Every human being wants to matter. Exclusion creates self-doubt and affects the quality of work produced.

Have you ever been rejected or socially excluded at some point in your life? Do remember how you felt when that happened? Lousy wasn’t it?

Social exclusion results in anger, depression, withdrawal and vindictive behaviour. Tangible threats to socially mediated pain are: being excluded, being disrespected, being embarrassed, being undermined and being overlooked or unfairly treated.

In South Africa a large part of our population has suffered social rejection/exclusion through apartheid as a result of the colour of their skin. Many of these people have become murderers and rapists which leaves us with the question: why? Why do they behave the way they do?

What are the reasons for someone to punch, kick, stab or fire a gun at someone else or even him/herself? Why do some men deliberately seek out women and children to brutally rape and/or murder?

Expression: Some people use violence as a mechanism to release feelings of anger or frustration. They believe there are no answers to their problems and turn to violence to express their emotions which are out of control.

Manipulation: Violence is used as a way to control others or get something they want.

Retaliation: Violence is used to retaliate against those who have hurt them or someone they care about.

Violence is a learned behaviour: Like all learned behaviours, it can be changed. This is not easy because there is no single cause of violence – there is not one simple solution. The best we can do is learn to recognise the warning signs of violence and to get help when you see them in others or in yourself.

Warning signs of youth violence:
People who act violently usually . . .
• Have trouble controlling their feelings
• May have been hurt by others
• Think that making people fear them through violence or threats of violence will solve their problems or earn them respect. Some violence occurs as a response to prolonged hurt, trauma, bullying or victimisation. People may use violence to get something, while others may act out of self-protection or desperation. People who behave violently lose respect. They eventually find themselves isolated or disliked, and they still feel angry and frustrated.

Anger itself is not always a sign that violence is imminent. While anger may be a warning sign of violence, it must be put in context. In fact, by assuming that anger or increased substance abuse will always lead to violence means that many non-violent people who are in need of help become unfairly characterized as violent. What is most important to look at is if there are “new” signs and significant changes in behavior.

The presence of some of the signs or factors listed below should alert us to the possibility that an individual may be at risk of violence. It should be noted, however, that the presence of one or more signs or factors does not necessarily mean that the person will be violent.

Some signs of potential for violence may be historical or static (unchangeable) factors like:
• A history of violent or aggressive behavior
• Young age at first violent incident
• Having been a victim of bullying
• History of discipline problems or frequent conflicts with authority
• Early childhood abuse or neglect
• Having witnessed violence at home
• Family or parent condones use of violence
• A history of cruelty to animals
• Having a major mental illness
• Being callous or lacking empathy for others
• History of vandalism or property damage

Other signs of potential violence may be present over time and may escalate or contribute to the risk of violence given a certain event or activity. These might include:
• Serious drug or alcohol use
• Gang membership or strong desire to be in a gang
• Access to or fascination with weapons, especially guns
• Trouble controlling feelings like anger
• Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
• Regularly feeling rejected or alone
• Feeling constantly disrespected

Some signs of potential violence may be new or active signs. They might look like:
• Increased loss of temper
• Frequent physical fighting
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Increased risk-taking behavior
• Declining school performance
• Acute episode of major mental illness
• Planning how to commit acts of violence
• Announcing threats or plans for hurting others
• Obtaining or carrying a weapon

The pain of social rejection:
Reasons for violence:

Having said all this, how does this relate to perpetrators of crimes like: Alison Botha, Valencia Farmer, Anene Booysen, Reeva Steenkamp and others? What went wrong in the lives of the perpetrators of these crimes to make them do what they did?

The major causes of Criminality:
What is the source of our ideas, schemes, anger, greed, lust, passion, jealousy?

• Lack of hope?
• A mixture of biological dispositions and environmental influences?
• Living in communities and regulating social behaviour?
• Overt behavioural causes (surface behaviour) of crime: Lust, greed, ego, passion and jealousy? Are these controllable?
• Covert behavioural causes: ideas, motivations, schemes, urges, passions, aversions, revulsions, thoughts and desires?
• Inability to conform, the amount of life stressors we experience, the availability of criminal outlets, biological dispositions toward impulsiveness and neurotransmitter dis-regulation, the specific demands that are imposed on individuals (based on what society they live in, what their social standing is, and how they perceive their roles)?
• Nature and nurture i.e. we are a product of our genetics, upbringing and culture?
• Our biology and attitude (culture)?
• The lack of learning the benefits of delayed gratification?

Overt behaviour is what can be observed by us and others
Covert behaviour (private behaviour) is what is observed by the individual alone (like his thinking process) but, who is thinking and who is observing?

How would you answer these questions?

What, in your view, are the solutions?

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Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking


This past week I spent two days at a workshop hosted by National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (NICRO) on the subject of Criminal Behaviour Foundations: Understanding Criminal Thinking.

I found this workshop very interesting and informative because I learnt that criminal behaviour, just like any other behaviour, does not exist in a vacuum. In order to deal appropriately with crime perpetrators, one has to understand the individual in relation to him/herself, the community and the world in which we live.

Some of the key learning for me was:
• How the values, beliefs and attitudes of perpetrators influence their behaviour negatively because of their negative world view and their negative view of themselves.
• The most commonly cited macro-level factors that contribute towards crime are: population structure, rapid migration from rural to urban areas, high levels of unemployment, inadequate education, insufficient welfare services, weak areas within the criminal justice system, large scale illegal immigration, availability of firearms, porous borders which makes crime syndicates, trafficking and smuggling a viable option and inequality and poverty.
• The development of behavioural problems early in life and critical thinking errors in later life also contribute to a life of crime. The eight most common static and dynamic risk factors for youth and adult crime are: history of anti-social behaviour, anti-social personality pattern, anti-social cognition (thinking patterns), anti-social associates/friends, family and/or marital problems, school and/or work problems, leisure and/or recreation choices and substance abuse.
• Brain development – what really stood out for me is that the brain does not fully mature until between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age which means that classifying a person as an adult at age 18 is actually technically incorrect because research has shown that the brain actually only completes development (matures) by age 25 – this includes impulse control, planning, reasoning, thinking before acting, the regulation of emotion, abstract thinking, resistance to peer influence and the ability to delay gratification. Whether a person is mature enough to be classified as an adult therefore needs to be decided on an individual basis.
• Schemas (the way we view the world) – we learnt that there are 5 schemas and there are 18 early maladaptive schemas grouped within 5 domains i.e. disconnection/rejection, impaired autonomy/performance, other directedness, over-vigilance/inhibition and impaired limits.
• The link between emotion and cognition and criminals do not necessarily lack empathy towards their victims but that there is a selective application of empathy.
• There are 8 criminal thinking styles or patterns which support or reinforce four behavioural styles i.e. problem avoidance, interpersonal hostility, self-assertion deception and denial or harm (to others).
We also watched a DVD of an interview of a child abuse survivor called Beth. The interview was done when she was aged about 6 years and she vividly remembers everything that was done to her by her father when she was only 1 year old. It was really heart-wrenching to watch her and how she could recall everything without showing any emotion whatsoever.

Here is the link to the interview we watched:

Do yourself a favour and get the movie/DVD called Child of Rage and see for yourself the events that led up to this interview.

We also watched an interview of a young man accused of murder and this was also moving because of the total lack of emotion when he recalled the events leading up to the murder.

There was just so much information shared at this workshop over the two days that it will probably take a while for everything to sink into this little pea brain of mine.

I now see perpetrators of crime in a new light. Where it was easy to judge them before and write them off as the scum of the earth, I now look at them and say “why?” and “what went wrong?”

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Conversations with Myself: Anger – why is everyone so enraged?

Angry Stickman Animated

Anger – why is the world so angry? Everywhere we go, people are angry.

Domestic and gender based violence, violence against women and children, children bullying and stabbing friends and peers, drivers forcing you out of their way on the roads, refusing to wait one second longer than they need to – the list is endless.

Why are people so angry? Why are they not able to control their anger?

Is it my imagination or my sheltered childhood that has created this illusion of a more calm society many years ago while I was growing up? What has changed? Why is it necessary for everyone to be so impatient and angry with everyone?

Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion — but it’s important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships. How do you deal with your anger?

Here are 10 anger management tips to help you along:

No. 1: Take a timeout
Counting to 10 isn’t just for kids. Before reacting to a tense situation, take a few moments to breathe deeply and count to 10. Slowing down can help defuse your temper. If necessary, take a break from the person or situation until your frustration subsides a bit.

No. 2: Once you’re calm, express your anger
As soon as you’re thinking clearly, express your frustration in an assertive but non confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

No. 3: Get some exercise
Physical activity can provide an outlet for your emotions, especially if you’re about to erupt. If you feel your anger escalating, go for a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other favorite physical activities. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out.

No. 4: Think before you speak
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to say something you’ll later regret. Take a few moments to collect your thoughts before saying anything — and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

No. 5: Identify possible solutions
Instead of focusing on what made you mad, work on resolving the issue at hand. Does your child’s messy room drive you crazy? Close the door. Is your partner late for dinner every night? Schedule meals later in the evening — or agree to eat on your own a few times a week. Remind yourself that anger won’t fix anything, and might only make it worse.

No. 6: Stick with ‘I’ statements
To avoid criticizing or placing blame — which might only increase tension — use “I” statements to describe the problem. Be respectful and specific. For example, say, “I’m upset that you left the table without offering to help with the dishes,” instead of, “You never do any housework.”

No. 7: Don’t hold a grudge
Forgiveness is a powerful tool. If you allow anger and other negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice. But if you can forgive someone who angered you, you might both learn from the situation. It’s unrealistic to expect everyone to behave exactly as you want at all times.

No. 8: Use humour to release tension
Lightening up can help diffuse tension. Don’t use sarcasm, though — it can hurt feelings and make things worse.

No. 9: Practice relaxation skillsWhen your temper flares, put relaxation skills to work. Practice deep-breathing exercises, imagine a relaxing scene, or repeat a calming word or phrase, such as, “Take it easy.” You might also listen to music, write in a journal or do a few yoga poses — whatever it takes to encourage relaxation.

No. 10: Know when to seek help
Learning to control anger is a challenge for everyone at times. Consider seeking help for anger issues if your anger seems out of control, causes you to do things you regret or hurts those around you. You might explore local anger management classes or anger management counselling. With professional help, you can:
• Learn what anger is
• Identify what triggers your anger
• Recognize signs that you’re becoming angry
• Learn to respond to frustration and anger in a controlled, healthy way
• Explore underlying feelings, such as sadness or depression

Anger management classes and counselling can be done individually, with your partner or other family members, or in a group. Request a referral from your doctor to a counsellor specializing in anger management, or ask family members, friends or other contacts for recommendations. Your health insurer, employee assistance program (EAP), clergy, or state or local agencies also might offer recommendations.

Conversations with myself: When I grow up, I want to be a Community Paralegal


I’m thinking of becoming a Community Paralegal. Why, I hear you asking?

Paralegals who are less expensive and more accessible than lawyers are able to empower the poor and marginalised in their interactions with Police, Prosecutors and the Courts.

Paralegals are able to deliver a critical service, particularly in the early stages of the criminal justice process. They are able to provide primary legal aid services which no one else is providing, which, in turn, can eliminate unnecessary pre-trial detention, the speedy processing of cases, diversion of young offenders, and reduce case backlogs.

Paralegals can play a valuable role in reducing prison overcrowding by locating the family members of pre-trial detainees and facilitating bail hearings.

Using their knowledge of the law and the circumstances of their client, Paralegals can identify individuals who are eligible and suitable for release from the Police Station, and assist them accordingly. In doing so, they gather and provide information to the Police about whether those arrested fulfil legal criteria for pre-trial release.

Paralegals who work at Police Stations can assist in verifying the identities and location of relatives and others who may assist the one arrested. The regular presence of a Paralegal at a Police Station is also likely to moderate any tendency of Police Officers to mistreat those arrested or to demand a bribe. Police Stations are also the most effective points for identifying and diverting juvenile suspects who might otherwise be classified and processed as adults.

A trained Paralegal who has interviewed an unrepresented detainee before a court hearing is able to advise the person being detained about the right to apply for bail (if applicable) and to gather facts that are relevant to such an application, i.e. the names of relatives who may be able to raise bail or act as sureties. Paralegals may even speak for those arrested at pre-trial hearings or be allowed to speak for an indigent defendant on matters of bail.

Paralegals can improve the quality of self-representation among defendants, especially during the pre-trial phase of the criminal justice process. This can be done through awareness raising and education on self-representation, demystifying the court process through role playing on what to expect in court, and providing guidance on the bail process and the grounds on which judicial officers typically base their pre-trial release/detention decisions.

This could result in accused persons becoming more active players and partners in the administration of justice, resulting in more successful bail applications at court.

Where the accused has not been given or offered bail and are in pre-trial detention awaiting the next court hearing, Paralegals can assist them in preparing and lodging bail applications. Paralegals who work in prisons can either train prisoners individually or offer group workshops in preparing bail applications, court procedures in general, court etiquette and other options for getting representation by a lawyer for themselves.

In addition to this advisory service, Paralegals can also search for relatives of those detained to inform them of where the detained person is and to establish who will be able to assist the detainee in being released on bail.

As part of their prison-based work, Paralegals could also identify pre-trial detainees whose warrants of arrest have expired, who have been in pre-trial detention longer than the statutory maximum allowed, who wish to plead guilty and those who are terminally ill. The Paralegals can bring these detainees to the attention of the relevant Investigating Officers, Prosecutors and Magistrates.

Paralegals can play an increasingly important role in enhancing access to justice for accused persons and criminal suspects.

Offender Reintegration

Questions (Blackboard)



The overall goal of offender reintegration is to reduce re-offending and enhance successful reintegration into society.  NICRO is reviewing its Offender Reintegration service this year and they are asking the following questions :

1)    Which government department should have the primary responsibility for offender reintegration for incarcerated offenders?

2)    Rate the current offender reintegration system in South Africa.

3)    Give an explanation for your rating in question (2) above.

4)    What are the major gaps in the current South African offender reintegration system?

–       No clear responsibility/ownership between the government departments?

–       Poor state/civil society working partnerships and relations/

–       Too little emphasis placed on what is known to work?

–       Politicisation/politicking of social welfare issues?

–       Poor interdepartmental collaboration?

–       Constantly changing plans and priorities?

–       Corruption?

–       Not properly utilising available resources (knowledge, skills, etc)?

–       Lack of civil society organisations collaborating with each other?

–       Inadequate state funding and budgeting?

5)    What are your general comments about the current South African offender reintegration system?

6)    How can communities and families be brought in to play a greater role in offender monitoring and management?

7)    What innovative ideas could you suggest for offender reintegration in South Africa?

8)    How can victims of crime be integrated into an offender reintegration service?

9)    Key responsibilities for offender reintegration for the future are . . .  (which do you think)?

–       State 100% responsible

–       Mutually responsible state and civil society expertise and partnerships (50 – 50)

–       Civil society needs to take over as the key manager of offender reintegration

10) The most essential elements of a successful offender reintegration service are:

–       Family reconstruction and reintegration work

–       Long term post-release after care

–       Income generation support

–       Re-housing schemes such as halfway houses

–       Community reintegration

–       Behavioural change programmes

–       Making the expungement of criminal records easier for petty offences

–       Surveillance schemes, such as electronic monitoring and tagging

–       More prisons

11) Which are the most important aspects (in any order) of offender reintegration taking place INSIDE prison?

–       Basic education

–       Substance abuse programmes

–       Substance addiction treatment

–       Vocational training

–       Prison industries

–       Parenting skills

–       Small business skills training

–       Life skills

–       Therapy

–       Structured physical exercise

–       Health care and mental health care services

–       Other

12) What offender reintegration activities must take place INSIDE prison and what must take place OUTSIDE prison after release?

13) What support do families of incarcerated and released offenders need to assist with the reintegration of the family member?

14) How long should the aftercare period (support provided from the date of release) be?

–       6 months

–       12 months

–       24 months

–       More than 24 months

–       Other

15) What support activities must form part of an effective aftercare service?

To complete the online survey, please click

The deadline is the end of August 2013.

Conversations with myself: For Whom the Bell Tolls!


Today I have been inspired to write by an article published in The Cape Times (8 March 2013) written by Rev Alan Storey entitled “Churches must break silence about historical abuse of women”. I tried to personalise this article in my conversation with myself so here goes . . .

The article starts off with a little story about the “Silent Bell” – in the tower of the Central Methodist Mission in Cape Town is a massive bell weighing three and a half tons. For safety reasons, this bell has not pealed since the Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887. It was silenced because, when it rang, it shook the foundation stones of the church and surrounding buildings and consequently threatened their structure. It is now known as the “Silent Bell”.

I’m now asking myself the question: are we like this bell, largely silent about promoting equality among women and men? Maybe it’s because we know that making our voices heard would not only threaten the structures of society but would also threaten the foundations of our male dominant structures?

When we do speak out, do we speak out in the tone of male patriarchy? This false sense of superiority is what abuse of women is generally based on. Let’s see . . .

• Eve is jokingly blamed for eating the forbidden fruit and feeding it to Adam
• Some church leaders believe that women should be silent during worship. In some churches women are not allowed to speak from the pulpit
• We are raised to believe that fathers are the head of the household and they are the breadwinners
• We are raised to believe that wives should submit to their husbands, however, we are not told that submission does not mean we have to be his doormat

As women we are often told by church leaders to “go back and forgive your abusive partner” because the Bible says you must forgive, but nowhere in the Bible is anyone told to tolerate abuse. To forgive abuse does not mean you have to tolerate its occurrence, or the conditions that make it possible.

Do we confuse forgiveness with reconciliation? Reconciliation will always require forgiveness, but forgiveness does not necessarily end in reconciliation. Sometimes the journey of forgiveness includes moving on and not returning to the way things were before.

The shame of being abused by one who says “I love you” is enormous. This shame has the power to silence us into submission. We need to break the silence against violence against women and children.

Maybe we need to shake the foundations that support the notion of male superiority and male domination and female subservience which lies at the heart of gender inequality.