Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

The Quasi-Coercive Treatment of Young Drug Offenders in South Africa: The Role of the Family

Academic journal article Journal of Community Positive Practices

The Quasi-Coercive Treatment of Young Drug Offenders in South Africa: The Role of the Family

Article excerpt


Since the early 1990s the involvement of communities has been seen as part of the solution to drug abuse in South Africa (SA). SA's strategic position as a transit country to surrounding less wealthy states increases the operation of drug syndicates (Swart, 1995). With the premise that prevention of substance abuse is better than cure, conditions for preventing the development of drug abuse have been identified early on as focusing on the stages before addiction; having the youth as a main target group; and having everyone involved as drug addiction affects the whole community (Swart, 1995: 2).

This paper looks at the link between drug abuse and juvenile behaviour and the alternative treatment of young offenders, specifically in South Africa. Of interest is the impact of the alternative sentencing of quasi-coercive treatment on the family and this context will be provided through the application of the person-in-environment framework and attachment theory.

The link between drug abuse and other crimes

There is much research on the link between drug abuse and crime (Bennett & Holloway, 2009; Goldstein, 1985; Gottfredson, Kearley & Bushway, 2008; White & Gorman, 2000). Within the literature, there is also much debate surrounding the dynamics of the drug-crime relationship (Gottfredson et al., 2008: 602; White & Gorman, 2000: 153). From this debate, three explanations of the relationship between drug use and crime have emerged, namely: a) drug use causes crime, b) crime causes drug use and c) the relationship between drug use and crime can be explained by a set of common variables. Importantly, these three explanations are not mutually exclusive (Gottfredson et al., 2008: 602).

Drug use causes crime

This particular causal model suggests that drug use leads to crime because of the psychopharmacological effects of drugs, the economic motivation to obtain drugs and the systemic violence which can be associated with the drug market and lifestyle (White & Gorman, 2000: 170). The psychopharmacological explanation posits that the actual effects of intoxication, such as disinhibition and bad judgement, directly cause crime (White & Gorman, 2000:170). The economic explanation of the causal drug-crime relationship suggests that crime is committed in order to obtain funds to purchase drugs and maintain a drug habit (White & Gorman, 2000: 174). Crimes such as robbery, burglary and prostitution all provide access to money to buy drugs, or to drugs directly to maintain a drug habit. While the psychopharmacological explanation provides some valuable arguments, it must be criticised on the basis that it only applies to certain socio-economic classes and certain drugs; it is mostly applied to violent crimes; the causal mechanisms between the drug-crime relationship are not explained and the disinhibition hypothesis is impossible to measure. Furthermore, the economic motivation explanation must be criticised for its assumption that the demand for drugs is inelastic; and empirical evidence suggests at best a correlation, not a causal relationship.

Crime causes drug use

This explanatory model argues that those who engage in crime are more likely than those who do not to be in social situations which facilitate drug use (Gottfredson et al., 2008: 602). As such, those situations provide the context for drug use and often condone and encourage the use of drugs (Gottfredson et al., 2008: 602; White & Gorman, 2000: 174). This Model takes into account certain lifestyle factors which may be common to both deviant individuals and drug use such as being unmarried and working periodically (White & Gorman, 2000: 174). Furthermore, it has been postulated that individuals who engage in criminal behaviour may use drugs as self-medication or may excuse their criminal behaviour by blaming it on the drug abuse (White & Gorman, 2000:174).

Common cause explanations

The common cause explanation of the drug-crime relationship posits that neither crime causes drug use or vice versa, but rather the drug-crime nexus has a set of common factors or causes (Gottfredson et al. …

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