n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Risk-taking behaviour among incarcerated male offenders in South African youth correctional centres

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



Crime is an enormous problem in South Africa, and of particular concern is the fact that youth involvement in criminal activities is increasing rapidly. The number of incarcerated youth offenders is also growing with the majority serving sentences for serious crimes. Classified as special category inmates, youth are separated from adult inmates with the purpose of providing proper treatment and development programmes to them while serving their incarceration terms so that they can live a crime free life after their release. However, due to the appealing conditions of our correctional centres and lack of rehabilitation programmes, incarcerated youth are exposed to high-risk behaviours. Against this background a purposive sample of 379 male youth offenders in four youth correctional centres were interviewed to establish and explore their tendencies and motivation to be involved in risk activities within correctional centres. In an attempt to assess risk-taking behaviours amongst the youth, a descriptive study was conducted to obtain knowledge from the relevant literatures. In addition to a descriptive study, data was collected by means of structured questionnaires. This questionnaire was categorised into three risk behaviours i.e. drug usage, sexual behaviour and gang activities. The research results indicate that the usage of drugs and related activities are not popular among the inmate population, despite the fact that many previous studies found youth commit crime under the influence of drugs. Moreover, the results reveal that a significant number of inmates recognise that sexual activity is the highest form of risk behaviour inside correctional centres. Finally, the results also revealed that gang activities rate as high-risk behaviour in youth correctional centres because inmates affiliate to various gangs to protect themselves against possible violation from other inmates.

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