Characteristics of youth crime and youth criminals?

This author conducted a study of youth offenders in 1994-95 in Rajasthan in which 272 offenders in three central jails in the state were studied. Of the total offenders studied, at the time of interview, 24 per cent belonged to the age group of 16-18 years, 47 per cent to the age group of 18-21 years and 29 per cent to the age group of 21-25 years.

However, at the time of committing crime, 44 per cent belonged to the age group of 16-18 years, 39 per cent to the age group of 18-21 years, and 17 per cent to the age group of 21-25 years.

Further, 62 per cent of the respondents were convicted and 38 per cent were under trials. Eighty-eight per cent were convicted under the Indian Penal Code and 12 per cent under the Local and Special Laws.


In the former group, 42 per cent were convicted for murder, 17 per cent for theft, 15 per cent for vagrancy, 9 per cent for assault, 4 per cent for rape, and less than 1 per cent for dowry-deaths.

In the latter group, 6 per cent were convicted under the Excise Act, 3 per cent under the Railways Act, 2 per cent under the Possession of Arms Act and 1 per cent under the Gambling Act.

Of the convicted offenders, 58 per cent were awarded life imprisonment, 7 per cent were imprisoned for 10-13 years, 8 per cent for 7-10 years, 4 per cent for 5-7 years, 2 per cent for 2-5 years, 6 per cent for 1-2 years, and 15 per cent for less than one year.

On the basis of our empirical study, several characteristics of youth crimes and youth criminals may be pointed out as below:


i. Crimes requiring lesser physical strength and alertness (like theft, etc.) are more characteristic of younger persons (16-21 years) while crimes requiring greater physical energy, skill and risk (like murder, rape, assault, dowry death) are more commonly found among youths between 21 and 25 years of age.

ii. The young adolescent group of 16-18 years makes up little more than two-fifths (44%) of the offenders; the group of 18-21 years makes up little less than two-fifths (39%) of the offenders and the older youth group of 21-25 years makes up little less than one-fifth (17%) of the offenders. Thus, the large segment of offenders belongs to the young adolescent group of 16-21 years.

iii. More than half of the offenders (55%) come from the lower-middle economic class (with an income between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 2,500 per month) while about two-fifths (40%) come from the lower economic class (income of less than Rs. 1,500 per month).

iv. About three-fifths youth criminals (62%) hail from the urban areas and little less than two-fifths (38%) from the rural areas.


v. Youth criminals have a lower marriage rate. About four-fifths of the offenders (77%) are unmarried and have no liability.

vi. Though the educational background of the youth criminals varies from illiteracy to graduation, a majority is illiterate (39%) or educated below secondary level (41%).

Our findings, thus, indicate that in the case of the youth criminals:

(a) There remain some important common areas like distinctive illiteracy or low level of education, lower and lower-middle class membership, and absence of or very little marital obligations.


(b) That youth criminals seem to be those who do not widely follow specifically middle-class social norms or customary patterns of behaviour, nor are middle-class lifestyles consciously emulated by them;

(c) That youth criminals seem to have no powerful motivation to gain higher material standards of living, or do they strive for higher social status, i.e., their social horizons are not free from traditional limitations;

(d) That assimilation of these youth into middle-class society is neither in process nor is it a desired objective; and

(e) That they have no particular desire to develop ‘social’ relationships, and in general tend to follow a family-centred and relatively privatised pattern of social life.