Beyond Youth Custody


Aidan reports that at the age of 14, with a group of his peers, he started, “causing problems for people, robbing people in the street, going around beating people up for no reason, just because of the way they was looking at me.”

By the age of 16, Aidan was serving four months in a young offender’s institution. Once in custody, Aidan resolved to change his behaviour and ‘get out of the gang’. He realised that he didn’t want to be in prison or ‘live a life of crime’. But, ‘of course there’s still gang activity inside’, and Aidan found himself unable to extricate himself from the life he once lived.

Three months after release, Aidan felt that ‘the whole thing was going wrong’. “It was bad inside, but when I came out it was worse… my own lot were trying to get money out of me. They were saying… ‘give us fifty quid’. Now at the time, fifty quid was a lot of money. I’d just come out of prison, where am I going to get fifty pound from? …And I says, ‘no, I’m not having it’. In the end, they started threatening me and my family.”

At this point, Aidan self-harmed to such an extent that the receiving accident and emergency department referred him to a mental health clinic for young people, where he received counselling.

“It gave me someone to talk to and supported me when I needed it… they give you an outlet. They don’t mind what the stuff is you have, they don’t care what you’re saying to them, they just lend an ear when you need an ear the most… you just talk – what’s happened and where you’ve been in the week… what’s going to stress you out next week, planning. Forty-five minutes on current stuff, and then fifteen on the week ahead.”

Aidan’s social worker contacted his supervising Youth Offending Team to ask if Aidan could attend the project instead of YOT appointments. “The social worker says, ‘Would you be able to rearrange things so that he can work with the project that can help people that are trying to get out of gangs?’ The YOT says, ‘Well if… he’s willing to go there and put in one-hundred per cent effort to try and do something with his life, we’re happy for him to do that.’”

Aidan is now almost 19. He continues to attend the project, despite being under no obligation to do so. His previous associates continue to cause him frustration, and his struggle is a continuing one. “The guy who stepped into my place, still to this day, he’s still mouthing off how he’s gonna do this to me, how he’s gonna do that to me.”

Aidan is bright and personable. He has six GCSEs and a part-time job, but wants a better job. He uses the computers at the project to assist with his search. He has lunch with staff there most days. They report that he also uses this time to practice his ‘life skills’ with them, typically asking, ’’Is this the right thing to do? I this the manly thing to do?’

According to Aidan, “The whole thing, with young people, is the way you talk to them… If it sounds like you’re helping them to get a job, or helping them in a way that’s gonna help them in life, they’re gonna sit there, and they’re gonna listen.”

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes