n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - 'Taking a Lead in Life' : the fundamentals of criminology in practice

Special Edition 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



The notion that Academic Criminology is to a large extent divorced from the practical fields that the subject informs, is not a new concept. Moreover, Criminology graduates seem to be falling into the trap of becoming bogged down in a cycle of reproducing book knowledge, without being able to interpret and use information in practice. This may lead to students entering the competitive labour market without the innovative and creative skills required to meet the challenges in the workplace. For the Department of Criminology at the University of the Free State (UFS), Community Service Learning (CSL) provides the ideal vehicle to reconcile theory on juvenile delinquency with the practical application thereof. Students in their fourth year of study visit the Bloemfontein Secure Care Centre, one of two juvenile detention centres in the Free State Province. Students engage in weekly visits to the Centre in order to present an adapted version of the 'Take a Lead in Life' Programme (a therapeutic programme designed to address problem areas that incarcerated youths encounter) to youths who have had brushes with the law. This on-site practical engagement enables the students to adapt the programme in response to the specific needs of the group they encounter. A process of experiential learning offers students the opportunity to attain a deeper level of learning regarding the phenomenon of juvenile misbehaviour and juvenile crime, whilst also emphasising the rehabilitation and therapeutic aims of the Centre. The integration of juvenile delinquency theory in the service activity, the design of the programme, the difficulties encountered during the pilot phase of the project, as well as the value of practical work for the parties involved (the University, the Department of Criminology, the students, the facilitators, the service partners and the target population) will be discussed. Personal critical reflections on the process by facilitators of the programme will also be included in this article.

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