In this study, the Capability Approach is applied as a comprehensive investigative framework for the purpose of understanding juvenile delinquency in Durban, South Africa. The Capability Approach measures justice by focusing on a person’s capabilities and agency freedom. The use of a justice theory model revealed innovative insights in comparison to the largely applied crime theories. This study adopted a qualitative research methodology. Eleven in-depth interviews were undertaken with six ex-juvenile offenders on an integration programme, organised by a Durban based NGO ‘YMCA’. Furthermore, five YMCA employees were interviewed. We found that juveniles’ deprived capabilities – lack of educational opportunities, lack of job opportunities and the absence of positive social networks – directly influence their agency freedom to reach a life they have reason to value. This study contends that the reason they engage in crime is motivated by their failure to secure legal conduits to cope with deprived capabilities or legal ways to activate their agency freedom in order to achieve an elementary life they reason to value. Consequently, the findings endorse preventive interventions that diminish inequalities and interventions that assist ex-juvenile offenders to legally enhance their agency in order to reach a life they reason to value.
Capability Approach, juvenile delinquency, risk factors, juvenile justice, agency freedom