Youths in custody: Aspirations and strategies for the future

Full report - Youths in custody in NSW: Aspirations and strategies for the future (pdf - 467Kb)

Release date: 7 November 2013, Thursday 10.30am

Far from being devoid of aspiration and self-insight, young people in custody share many of the hopes and aspirations of young people in the wider community. Many also understand what is stopping them achieving their goals.

This is one of the key findings to emerge from an interview study, conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, of 107 young people held in juvenile justice detention centres across New South Wales.

The aim of the study was to examine the extent to which young people in custody (1) rate specific life goals as important and likely to eventuate; (2) have strategies to achieve these goals; and (3) can see the barriers to achieving their goals.

About 76 per cent of those interviewed said that, since arriving in custody, they 'often' or 'always' thought about their future.

More than 90 per cent rated as 'quite important' or 'very important': having a well paying job, working hard to get ahead, having a happy family life and avoiding trouble with police.  

Most could also nominate strategies for achieving their goals. For example, of the 93 youths who could think of a strategy to secure the type of employment that they desired, 62 said that they intend to get the necessary educational certificates and diplomas that are required to be job-ready; 24 said starting in a junior position and getting experience was their strategy.

Most were aware of the barriers to getting a job. Forty-six per cent nominated 'trouble with the law'; 26 per cent nominated their 'criminal record'; 17 per cent nominated 'antisocial peers' and 13 per cent nominated 'drugs'.

Most were also aware of the barriers to avoiding trouble with police. Most (58%) nominated 'antisocial peers' but a significant proportion also identified drugs (32%) and alcohol (23%).

When asked what their strategy was for avoiding trouble with police, the most common response was to 'avoid/stand up to peer pressure'.

Commenting on the findings, the director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn said that:

'These findings conflict with the popular stereotype of young offenders as indifferent to the long-term consequences of their actions. They also underscore the importance of programs which seek to encourage young people to adopt a normal, lawful life in the general community.'

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn Ph. 02 9231-9190

Copies of the report: