Musings of a Ruga Girl: Youths and Petty Crime - Embracing Rehabilitation Over Punishment


In the quiet of my room after a long day, I yearned for a peaceful night's sleep. However, destiny had other plans, as the piercing scream from my neighbor's house shattered the tranquility of the night. It was 12:15 a.m., and I rushed outside to join the gathering crowd, all bewildered by the unfolding tragedy. The young man in the neighboring house had fallen victim to an unknown assailant's murderous act.

Days passed, and the echoes of screams persisted. Another young life was extinguished by faceless perpetrators. It left me pondering - were these lives lost over mere phones and pocket change?

Could these atrocities be a byproduct of our segregated communities, breeding grounds for crime and despair? Or perhaps, they were born from the ashes of violent conflicts that have plagued our past? Today, we reflect on the intricate relationship between our youth and petty crime.

The actions of our young generation involved in minor offenses, ranging from vandalism and shoplifting to the heinous act of murder, evoke strong reactions from both authorities and our community. However, it is imperative to delve deeper into the root causes of these behaviors and contemplate alternative solutions that prioritize rehabilitation over harsh punitive measures.

I decided to seek the wisdom of Mallam, who meditated quietly before answering my inquiries. He began by emphasizing the importance of understanding the underlying causes of youth involvement in petty crimes.

Influential Factors:

  1. Peer Influence: Adolescence is a period marked by vulnerability to peer pressure, leading some youths to engage in criminal activities to gain social acceptance or prove their mettle.

  2. Socioeconomic Conditions: Economic disparities can drive young individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds toward theft or vandalism as a means to bridge the gap in material possessions.

  3. Lack of Guidance: The absence of parental guidance, mentorship, or positive role models can leave youths susceptible to negative peer influences and criminal behavior.

  4. Avenues for Expression: Frustration with societal norms and a lack of outlets to express dissent can lead some youths down the path of criminality.

  5. Post-Conflict Effect: In societies recovering from violent conflicts, former heroes may feel abandoned and marginalized, leading to a transfer of their energies and actions toward their communities.

When I asked Mallam about the way forward, he stressed the need for rehabilitation instead of punishment. I questioned the significance of laws that dictate punitive measures for criminals, to which he replied that sometimes, we must rethink and re-strategize for the greater good.

A Path Towards Rehabilitation:

  1. Restorative Justice: This approach allows young offenders to understand the consequences of their actions, make amends, and rebuild damaged relationships, fostering empathy and accountability.

  2. Education and Skills Development: Equipping youths with practical skills and educational opportunities reduces the likelihood of reoffending and empowers them to create a positive future.

  3. Mentorship Programs: Pairing troubled youths with responsible adults who provide guidance and serve as positive role models can redirect them away from criminal paths.

  4. Community Involvement: Engaging the community in rehabilitation efforts fosters an inclusive and supportive environment for young offenders, encouraging their reintegration through community service and activities.

Mallam emphasized that addressing youth involvement in petty crime requires a comprehensive framework that prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment. Recognizing the underlying motivations and contributing factors enables society to respond with empathy, aiming for transformation rather than permanent stigmatization.

In offering support, guidance, and growth opportunities, we can empower these youths to become responsible, law-abiding members of our community. Ultimately, our success in curbing petty crime among young people hinges on our ability to bridge the gap between their actions and their potential for positive change. As I sat in contemplation, gazing at the starry night, the promise of a brighter future for our youth glimmered on the horizon