Beyond Youth Custody

A tailored model of rehabilitation for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic, Muslim offenders

Dr Christine Hough
Lecturer and researcher, School of Social Work Care and Community, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Christine Hough, shares initial findings from her evaluation of a model for the rehabilitation of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), Muslim offenders.

Arooj’s model

Since their inception in 2007, Arooj’s successful work in the rehabilitation of BAME Muslim offenders has been based on a unique model of mentoring and support that is predicated on the notions of inclusion and social justice.

The model comprises three stages:

  • Stage One, at which the mentors build and establish a trusting relationship with the offenders whilst they are in prison, in order to establish lines of communication and support for and them and their families. Arooj provides an impartial service that is independent of any part of the criminal justice system and they are often the only Asian support group working in a prison. This factor is significant to their clients because their perception is that the Arooj mentors support them individually, rather than as part of a central ‘system’ of rehabilitation and resettlement that is operated by HM prisons.
  • Stage Two of the model is equally significant, because this is where Arooj will refer their clients to multi-agency groups (such as drugs and alcohol support), work to secure employment opportunities within their communities and intervene with their families to encourage their re-integration and acceptance back into the family network.
  • Stage Three is lifelong and may endure indefinitely, for as long as the offender and their family require Arooj’s support.

These are not discrete, or stand-alone stages of support but together they comprise a holistic model of support and Arooj considers to be the main contributory factor to their success. Through establishing the initial, trusting relationship with their clients at Stage One, the Arooj professionals are then able to contact the offenders’ families and support them, both practically and emotionally, through to Stage Two. The families of BAME, Muslim offenders often have difficulty in coming to terms with their own feelings towards their offending sibling/son/daughter because of the sense of dishonour that a criminal offence brings upon the family. The families come to regard Arooj as trustworthy confidantes to whom they can talk freely because they share the same culture and faith. Therefore throughout Stage Two, the involvement of BAME ex-offenders’ families in the rehabilitation process is an additional, important factor in the overall success of Arooj’s model of support.

In the transition from stage two to three and thereafter, Arooj help to empower offenders in making the significant step from the transformative issues of welfare provision, such as individual need, diagnosis and rehabilitation to becoming independent individuals, able to access the resources of social justice, such as their social and family networks, employment, housing and living independently. Arooj support ex-offenders through a medium of trust, rather than through threat or coercion. Therefore their clients work with them on a voluntary basis and this is one of the reasons for Arooj’s past successes; their clients are encouraged to want to desist from re-offending and are supported individually at all stages of the rehabilitation journey.

Key findings from the mid-way write-up

  • The historical success of Arooj’s three stage model of rehabilitation is attributable to its support of offenders throughout the processes of both primary and secondary desistance.
  • The government’s system of Payment by Results (PbR), which is a fundamental part of the new Transferring Rehabilitation agenda, allocates payment to the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) on the basis of performance against the ‘binary measure’ of reduced reoffending over a period of twelve months. This will militate against securing the more sustained outcomes of secondary desistance. The evidence from ReachingOut suggests that this use of a ‘pass/fail’ performance metric is not an effective means through which to evaluate the complex process of rehabilitation and desistance from re-offending.
  • The values-based, advocacy role of Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) such as Arooj is in danger of being eroded by the modus operandi of the new CRCs, because of the ‘marketised’ business model they now conform to. There is evidence that this will encourage more of a “quick fix” approach to reducing reoffending rather than addressing the more costly, transformative issues of assessment, diagnosis and offender identity.

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Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes