Conversations with myself: Understanding Criminal Thinking

Brain

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: http://youtu.be/ME2wmFunCjU

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?”

Don’t forget – you can also find me at: http://www.womendemanddignity.wordpress.com

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

graduation_owl_md_wht

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.

AT THE POLICE STATION:
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.

AT COURT:
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.

AT PRISON:
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 https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ARDUc_ZKC-tHTB2LzhO56-U1szD-LX-PKXmX5yrqpi8/viewform?pli=1.

The deadline is the end of August 2013.

In pursuit of my African Dream – my safety is @ risk!

“Convict freed early, now held for rape” by Zaa Nicholson (Cape Times, July 13, 2012)

According to this article today –

  • 71 of the 40,365 offenders released from prison have been re-arrested on charges of rape, attempted murder, robbery, assault, kidnapping, possession of stolen goods and housebreaking.
  • Correctional Services spokesperson Simphiwe Xako was quoted saying “as much as the Constitution provides for the department to be the custodian of offenders, they have to be released once they have been rehabilitated. We play  our role in the rehabilitation of offenders but there are various dynamics with human beings so some offenders do commit crimes again.”

As I sit and ponder about life and what’s going on in our beautiful country I have to ask: does Correctional Services actually have a long-term rehabilitation plan for offenders? If yes, what exactly is the plan and why is it not working? If there is a plan and it is not working, what is being done about it?

If there is no long-term rehabilitation plan in place for offenders, why not? Isn’t it time a plan is put in place? Surely you cannot remove an offender from society for however long the prison term is and expect him/her to just walk back into society as if he/she never left?

The offender has to learn to socialise and reintegrate with family and society as a whole again just as much as his/her family and society has to learn to accept this person back as part of the family or society. The offender would need help in finding suitable employment which is extremely difficult for those who have a good education and no criminal record – how much more difficult is it not for someone who has a criminal record?

Budget cuts – the latest buzz word these days on everyone’s lips. Yes, those in power always think they know best but do they realise that cutting budgets means that essential services are not provided? Surely skills development for an offender is just as important as it is for those who don’t offend and who don’t have a criminal record? We have people with undergraduate and even post graduate degrees working as waiters in eating establishments, yet we expect those with criminal records to just walk out of prison and straight back into life as if nothing happened since they left.

Aaah, but you say “there is Nicro and FAMSA (and others)”. Yes, they are doing the best they can to help, but with limited funding, there is only so much they can do.

According to our wonderful Constitution, South Africa belongs to all who live in it which might be true, but how can we feel safe and protected when offenders are just “let loose” on society with no thought (or very little thought) for the innocent ones living in the very same country.

I’m just saying . . .

 

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