Festival highlights plight of offenders

The Together Against Crime Festival will take place from Wednesday September 28 to Saturday October 1 at the Artscape Theatre.

The festival, which aims to alter the public’s perception of criminals, is hosted by the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro) in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services, Varde Teatre, Fredskorpset, Artscape and Business and Arts SA.

Nicro CEO Soraya Solomon said Nicro usually holds a human rights lecture annually. This year, the organisation has decided to go beyond the lecture in order to get people more involved and talking about solutions.

She said the festival would become an annual event.

The three-day event will include a play written and performed by Pollsmoor and Goodwood prison inmates, an art exhibition of works by inmates and ex-offenders, a replica of a prison cell, performances by inmates and other community bands, choirs, musicians and dancers, and arts-focused interactive activities, including painting and wire art crafting.

The play The Making of a Criminal will be staged on Thursday September 29 at 6.30pm, and on Saturday October 1 at 3pm. It is a powerful production developed by prison inmates at Pollsmoor and Goodwood through NICRO’s Help I’m Free! Project, which is funded and implemented by Norwegian partners. It reveals the socially invisible world of prison life, the severe impact and consequences of incarceration, as well as the very real fears and challenges inmates experience in prison.

On Friday September 30, from 10am to 3pm, there will be prison bands and other entertainment.

Nicro will also be delivering its Human Rights Lecture Series at the event. Discussions on innovative approaches to crime prevention will be given by thought leaders including the former Constitutional Court Justice Albie Sachs.

Inclusive panel discussions will be held on the topics of “The Criminal Archetype: Does it exist within all of us?” and “Criminal Rehabilitation and the Artist”.

NICRO’s It Starts with You crime-fighting initiative will also be launched at the festival.

Ms Solomon said: “The initiative seeks to galvanise South Africans to stand together against crime. Locking up people in prison is not the answer to solving the crime issue, it is both ineffective and expensive. What works is understanding that social problems are at the root of much of the country’s crime. We would like to see people supporting our approaches to achieving meaningful social change in South Africa.”

She said Nicro, which has been around for more than 60 years, has seen people change as a result of behavioural change programmes.

“Not everyone changes, but at least 70 percent of people that come from our organisation do not go back to criminal behaviour.

She added that organisations and role players who assist in rehabilitation of criminals should work together to provide solutions to social problems.

Entry to the festival is free. For more information, visit the Facebook Event Page and join the conversation on social media by using #ItsTimeToTakeActionOnCrime.

For more information, visit www.nicro.org.za or call 021 462 0017.