Welcome to the Network on Reducing Re-offending

In August 2008, at a conference themed Action For A Safer South Africa various stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System were brought together. The 'Second Chance' focus group at that conference resolved that there was a need to establish a network to deal with the problem of re-offending.

At the time and even to date, there were no reliable statistics on re-offending and while organisations were working in prisons and communities, they were working in their own spaces with no integration of processes or linkages between them, except meeting at conferences. The thinking around the establishment of a network was that there was a need to share information and experiences; increase the body of knowledge on re-offending; bench-mark the services available to those in prison and as a collective and very importantly, have an influence on policy-makers in the Criminal Justice System.

The Open Society Foundation's Criminal Justice Initiative and the Foundation for Human Rights' Access to Justice and the Promotion of Constitutional Rights programmes have provided the initial funding for the establishment of the Network on Reducing Re-offending.

The following organisations form the driver group of the Network on Reducing Re-offending:
  • Phoenix Zululand Restorative Justice Programme
  • Restorative Justice Centre
  • NiCRO
  • OPEN
  • Realsitic
  • Young in Prison
  • Vezokuhle


Statement of Intent

Problem Statement

The Preamble to the South African Constitution places an obligation on all of us to "improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person". The Network on Reducing Re-offending accepts that re-offending makes a significant contribution to crime and the extent of victimisation in South Africa. Repeat offending is often the result of failed offender re-entry and re-integration. This need not be the case going forward. Although accurate statistics are not available, the experience and perceptions of practitioners in the field suggest that the rate is alarming , unacceptably high, and some crimes go undetected. Noting that South Africa has a diverse nature of services aimed at reducing re-offending, it is a pre-requisite that a network of like-minded organisations and individuals be established. To ensure the success of the Network on Reducing Re-offending, all stakeholders should adopt an inclusive approach. The challenges pertaining to the poor coordination of offender reintegration services, the lack of consensus regarding what constitutes effective service delivery and significant information gaps characterise the problems that face the sector. Organised Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and individuals have demonstrated some effective approaches in pockets but their processes have been largely fragmented. The network aims to pool together their capacity and diverse expertise in a bid to deal with the problem of re-offending holistically. Thus, the Network on Reducing Re-offending is established and committed to promote the use of well co-ordinated, effective interventions to reduce re-offending.

Opportunity analysis
Consultations and dialogue in the sector concluded that action was necessary aimed at the following:
  • The development of knowledge and ensuring that the work and decisions of service providers are knowledge-based and knowledge driven to render quality services;
  • The creation of opportunities and spaces for dialogue and interaction between different stakeholders, ranging from academia, government, civil society service delivery organisations, human rights organisations, those who find themselves in conflict with the law, their families and others affected by crime;
  • A clear focus on legislation and policy reform to impact on the manner in which the state and civil society respond to re-offending.
  • It remains in the interest of all South Africans to reduce the level of re-offending.

Focus areas
The network will build knowledge through:
  • Identifying the nature and availability of services at magisterial district level;
  • Facilitating greater co-ordination of services between organisations at national, provincial and local levels;
  • Sharing of information and knowledge between organisations on effective interventions,
  • Promoting a culture of knowledge-building and research amongst organisations, and
  • Capacity-building and support especially for emerging organisations.

Advocacy and lobbying
At the national level, the Network on Reducing Re-offending will advocate for a legislative and policy environment that promotes the reduction of re-offending through social and individual interventions. The Network on the Reducing Re-offending will engage government and the private sector to develop coherency amongst stakeholders on policy issues. Of particular importance in this regard is the relationship between civil society and the state, especially where services rendered are in support of state objectives.

Quality Services
There is at present great diversity in the range and quality of services rendered by CSOs. The quality of services needs to be improved and assured. It is of critical importance that clients, the public, government, and the donor community have confidence in the quality of projects and programmes rendered by civil society organisations in respect of ethics, principles and practice in the delivery of offender support services. The development of minimum norms and standards for services to offenders and former offenders will make a significant contribution to improving the quality of services.