Harnessing wilderness in the rehabilitation of male adolescent offenders in a diversion programme
This research study focused on wilderness-based interventions utilised within two, pilot (four-month) diversion rehabilitation programmes in 2006. Participants were at-risk youth, aged fourteen to seventeen years who had been referred by the local magistrate’s court for minor criminal offences. The diversion programme is run under the auspices of the Usiko Stellenbosch Youth Development Project, an NGO specialising in the psycho-social development of male and female youth at-risk from disadvantaged communities. Central to Usiko’s diversion programme is an emphasis on utilising wilderness as an integral part of the rehabilitation process. The diversion programme includes two different types of four-day wilderness-based interventions. The first wilderness intervention is a camp-based, programme in the Franschhoek mountains, while the second is a hiking expedition-based in the Cederberg mountains. The study assesses the significance of how wilderness was construed, implemented and experienced by the team of five facilitators, who conducted the diversion programme. A description is given of the meta-theoretical model underpinning the diversion programme. Using a qualitative methodology as a participant-observer to the diversion programme, the researcher analysed the facilitators’ evaluations of the wilderness interventions as part of a restorative justice approach. Recommendations were proposed to enhance the programmatic implementation of wilderness interventions as a platform for rehabilitation and psycho-social development.