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Young boys behind bars: An ethnographic study of violence and care in South Africa

posted Mar 11, 2015, 1:10 PM by Annemiek Richters   [ updated Mar 19, 2015, 12:40 PM ]
Thesis defense by Heidi Sauls, 19 March 2015, Agnietenkapel, University of Amsterdam

Promotores Prof.dr. J.M. Richters and Prof.dr. R. Reis
Co-promotor: Prof.dr. S. Pendlebury

Young boys behind bars: An ethnographic study of violence and care in South Africa

This PhD thesis is the result of an ethnographic study that delves into the world of boys, younger than 16 years old and awaiting trial behind bars in a secure care facility. These young boys have committed crimes ranging from theft to rape in South Africa. In this thesis, the reader is introduced to some of these boys. We get to know who these boys are, where they come from, why they were institutionalised and what they endured in their daily lives outside the institution.

The core of this thesis describes the social composition of a secure care facility and the daily activities and interactions that take place within its walls. We follow the boys in the trajectories they took inside and outside the criminal justice system and obtain glimpses of their families, communities and staff with whom they come into contact.

How are socio-cultural and legal-political perceptions of violent children reflected in the infrastructural arrangements and regulations of secure care facilities in South Africa ? In these facilities, how are the lives of these boys enacted on a daily basis ? And how do institutionalised boys perceive themselves inside and outside the institution ? These were the three main research questions that steered this study.