There are particular times when recently released young people are likely to relapse into criminality, especially if they have had to be relocated. Services and individual support need to be available when young people are most likely to feel lonely and isolated, often on Friday nights and at weekends. Respondents agreed that ‘through the gate’ is really important but felt it was often rhetoric rather than reality. For Aaron, being relocated upon release was a challenging time, during which he needed support.
The immediate time after release was very challenging but Aaron coped well with settling back into the community and his new area. However, as time went on and the practical issues were resolved, it became clear that leaving behind family, friends and his community was very difficult emotionally. Aaron’s relationship with his long-term girlfriend had also broken down as a result of the move. Aaron had lost his support network of family and friends and spent a lot of time alone.
Although statutory services considered Aaron’s friends as a negative influence, they were also the friends he had had since early childhood. During this period the support Aaron needed seemed similar to that required by someone who had been moved as part of witness protection. Aaron was prohibited from contacting his old friends as part of his licence, but also in terms of risk, and could not return home to see family.
After Aaron had been in the community for a few months a close friend was murdered in Aaron’s home area and he was unable to return for the funeral or to be among friends to grieve due to the risk. Aaron became depressed during this period and emotional support was provided. At this time it was a daily challenge to keep Aaron in his new area and prevent him from returning to his old area and lifestyle. Aaron had, however, been assisted to try various hobbies and became happier when he discovered Muay Thai and joined a local club, and this also helped Aaron to stop smoking cannabis.
Extra support was provided on significant dates like Aaron’s birthday and Christmas. These periods were very difficult as it highlighted the people and lifestyle that Aaron felt he had lost and made him question his commitment to his new area and life. Emotionally and mentally, relocating gave Aaron the chance of a fresh start but also meant loneliness and isolation.
It is often easy to forget that a life free from offending is not just about making practical changes although these are obviously essential. Not only did Aaron need accommodation and to start education from a beginner’s level, he also had to adjust to a lifestyle that did not involve the power and status which he previously had.
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