Exploring why some youth are engaged in criminal activities to achieve their goals in life: a study of incarcerated male offenders in the Youth Correctional Facility, Westville.
Magwaza, Sibonelo Humphrey.
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South Africans are plagued by criminal activities which are perpetrated mostly by youth each day. A number of youths tend to deviate from socially accepted behaviours which could be due to lack of legitimate opportunities for them to develop in life. Some of the youth would pursue criminal activities for monetary or material gain, while others would conduct crime for mere prestige. Some of them are shaped by social and political circumstances which tend to inhibit them from exploring their capacities. The mere fact of being raised in socially disadvantaged communities could be the prime cause of youth crime as they are raised in the very communities which are the breeding soil for potential offenders as they try to make ends meet. Youth who cannot bear to live under poverty opt for shortcut means to achieve success in their lives as they develop envy and greed when observing other youth of a similar age being given legitimate opportunities to showcase their talents. However such criminal means of achieving success in life are detrimental to the victims of crime and the community in general. Those who are caught and found guilty of crime spend their valuable times incarcerated and could choose to continue with criminal careers or desist from crime if they learned their lesson when they were confined in correctional facilities. However, some studies have identified failures of preventive measures to counteract youth crime. Farrington and colleagues (2016), when they did a systematic review, found that a measure of community-based interventions involving individual, family and school-based interventions produced a mere five percent reduction in the manifestation of youth criminal behaviour. Not even the institutions like prisons are winning the battle to reduce crime to satisfactory level, especially in South Africa. McCarthy, Schiraldi, and Shark (2016: 2) state that regardless whether the benefits and costs of youth prisons are measured on magnitude of public money spent, they are putting the very people they are suppose to help and put them in a detrimental position irrespective of the fact that prisons and other crime prevention measures have been there for generations. The institutional failure to address the problem of crime however does not inhibit other attempts like this study to establish other motives for some people to engage in criminal activities. This is why the aim of this study was to explore why some youth decided to engage in criminal activities, to identify factors in their environments that influence criminal behaviour, and to recommend preventative measures against future youth criminal behaviour.