JUVENILE DELINQUENCY SITUATION IN SOUTH AFRICA
The survey was conducted on 75 youths in South Africa.
On these 75 people, the majority (31) were 14-17 years old, 12 were between 18-21 years-old, 17 were between 22-25 years-old and 15 were 26-35 years old.
The gender balance was insured with 43 interrogated women and 32 men which represents 57.33% women and 42.67% men. 92% of the surveyed (69 out of 75) think that youth crime is a problem nowadays.
Most of the youth that were surveyed, had a positive opinion about young offenders, as they feel that they are young people that have been less lucky in life and many may have different reasons why they resort to crime. Mostly the inquired feel that young people commit crime because of their low standard of living, financial instabilities within their households, unemployment, peer pressure and poor parenting.
According to the youth, the most common crime committed by young people in South Africa is, for the majority of the inquired, theft (31 people out of 75) followed by grievous bodily harm (21 people), sexual offence (14 people) and murder (9 people).
The same people said that what could help reducing juvenile delinquency are prevention programs, support at school, involvement of Youth organizations and a reduced access to alcohol and drugs on the whole.
They recommended to include young ex-offenders in life skills programs, awareness campaigns as well as motivational talks because they have experienced how it feels to commit crime and the consequences of getting arrested and having a criminal record.
According to the inquired, the problems that young offenders face when they are released to freedom are the lack of professional skills, the trouble ex-offenders have to find a job and the non-acceptance by society.
Globally, the youths feel that there is not enough prevention and integration programs that focus on providing skills for the youth of South Africa to ensure that the they do not resort to the life of crime because of their socio-economic issues. They also felt that the government needs to introduce programs that inform and educate people about crime and the “Child Justice Act” as it may be one way to prevent youth crime in South Africa.
25 youth workers in Gauteng, South Africa were inquired. The survey was conducted with the staff of organizations working with youth focusing on drug rehabilitation, afternoon care program, sexual education, educational support, food relief programs, skills development, psychosocial support, arts and culture projects. Their responses were slightly similar as they all work with vulnerable youth within townships of South Africa and most feel the issues that young people are faced with are common across South Africa.
The youth workers interrogated had been working with youth from 1 year to more than 5 years. Most of them work in a NGO (64%) and the others work in social services or youth centers. Most of the youth workers that completed the surveys, disclosed that they work in NGOs that have programs that provide social services within schools and the community.
Half of them has already worked with young ex-offender. Within the people who have had experience working with ex-offenders some had at a small scale and their programs do not necessarily target young ex-offenders. The drug center is the one that has had enormous experience in working with young ex-offenders because most of their beneficiaries have committed crime trying to get a fix for their addiction and some became addicts within prison.
The other half that said no did it mostly because they are not profiling their beneficiaries based on whether they have been to prison or not, or whether they have been through the juvenile system. Most of the institutions profile indicators focus on socio-economic issues that young people are facing within their households and community.
The institutions where the inquired youth workers are currently working provide services that focus on all the target groups, however, the primary focus is on youth in general. Only one organization out of all primarily focuses on youth with disabilities and did not have young offenders within their programs. We have listed the all the young people that youth workers target:
- Young people in general;
- Young people with educational issues;
- Young people with social issues;
- Young people with economic issues;
- Young people with disability issues.
All of the inquired think that youth crime is a problem nowadays and most of them think that inclusion of young ex-offenders in youth work activities would facilitate their reintegration and lower the probability of re-offence.
20 out the 25 that were surveyed, would like young ex-offenders to join their organization, however they feel that some preparation would be needed. Moreover, they said that they will also need to assess the kind of crime that was committed by ex-offenders, and possibly, develop programs that will ensure that their involvement in organizations is effective and enables them to measure impact.
The other 5 people were not sure whether they would like ex-offenders to join their organizations, because they feel that working with young people has its challenges and they fear that ex-offenders would fall victim to judgements, and might be ridiculed for their past mistakes. Organizations can only allow this if there is a structured program that will enable them to integrate young ex-offenders into their programs without making them feel like they don’t belong.
Following is a list of the activities that organizations do most in their daily youth work and in bold the activities, which, according to the youth workers inquired, could successfully involve young ex-offenders:
- Skills development programs
- Life skills
- Simulations activities for people with disabilities
- Sport activities
- Computer skills to teach young people coding
- Assisting young people with employments opportunities
- Support clubs
- Food relief programs
- Career Guidance
- Counselling session
- Human Rights Activities
- Gender-Based Violence session
- Sexual Education
- Motivational talks on consequences of committing crime
For the youth workers, involving young ex-offenders in their work daily activities would bring benefits such as the improvement of competences/skills for their colleagues and themselves as youth workers and also for the young people they work with; the facilitation of re-integration of young ex-offenders and the possibility to reduce re-offending providing an environment where young ex-offenders can develop their skills; eventually it will contribute to solving an important societal problem.
On the other hand, the inquired youth workers expressed their concerns regarding the involvement of young ex-offenders in their organization which could be linked to the lack of competence on how to deal with these people and the possible difficult adaptation of the ex-offenders, the attitude other workers in the organization may have regarding these young ex-offenders and the negative reaction of the youth of the organization as well, the sense of insecurity, lack of financial resources and the barriers arising from formal requirements.
Eventually, the youth workers were asked about the kind of preparation which could facilitate the involvement of young ex-offenders in their daily activities and, according to them, what could help would be more financial resources, the creation of an online platform through which young ex-offenders could easily find friendly organizations, a special training on how to work with these people and the development of a methodology on how to involve young ex-offenders in youth work.
The above findings is evidence that youth crime is a growing problem in South Africa, and most people think that the government needs to partner with CBOs and NGOs at grass roots level towards ensuring that there are effective programs developed to address this national problem. Most South Africans feel that the legal system of South Africa has to be revised, especially when dealing with crime because fraud and corruption are making our legal system less effective.
The survey was made on 21 young ex-offenders in South Africa.
Half of the inquired were between 25-35 years old (11 out of 21), 4 were 20-24 years-old, 3 were between 17-19 years-old and 3 were 14-16.
The majority of the young offenders who answered the questions had been convicted once (18 out of 21) and the other part had already been convicted twice.
When asked about the skills they would like to improve the most, the inquired answered that they would like to improve their communication skills, emotion management skills, attention skills and professional skills. Some of them answered that they do not need to improve any of their skills.
All of the interviewed persons said that they would like organizations to organize social activities for them and other young offenders. Out of the 21 inquired, 20 said they would join these activities and the other one said maybe.
The activities young offenders would like to take part in in detention facilities are:
- Sport activities as well as Arts & Culture activities;
- Computer training;
- Hanging out and motivating youth;
- Practical skills development workshops;
- Employment trainings;
- Life skills;
- Work readiness skills.
17 of the young offenders that completed the survey would like to assist in organizing some of these activities, but still fear that they may not be accepted by the society because they are still seen as criminals. They believe that if they are given the opportunity to get involved in social activities, they may assist in guiding young people and reducing the chances making mistakes that they did. This could be beneficial for both ex-offenders and young people that are to commit crime.
The activities they would like to help organize are:
- Sports activities/tournaments
- Conversations with young people
- Practical skills development workshops
- Art activities
- Life skills
- Motivational talks
They are quite similar to the activities they would like to join in the detention facility which are visiting sport events, attending cultural events and sport activities, go to local music shows and take part in awareness events.
The process of getting people to complete the survey helped us understand the challenges that young offenders face when trying to access opportunities. Some have had harsh experiences in detention centers as they almost fell victim to sexual assault and violence. 18 out of the 21 are struggling a lot with getting jobs and they feel that the government isn’t doing enough in ensuring that they have access to equal opportunities.
According to the youth inquired the things that could help them integrate and avoid getting involved in illegal activities again are:
- Better situation at home;
criminal record, and this is making it difficult for him to get a job or even get access to other opportunities such as training or an opportunity to further his studies. Some are struggling to access shelter and they are more likely to resort back to the life of crime because their families have disowned them and so they feel hopeless.