Beyond Youth Custody


Jason was referred to one of the Youth In Focus resettlement projects by the local Youth Offending Service four weeks prior to release from a YOI. He was serving his first custodial sentence for vehicle and driving related offences. Jason comes from a particularly difficult family background. Both his parents are substance misusers and he grew up witnessing their heroin and cocaine use and their violence towards each other. On a number of occasions during his childhood Jason and his siblings asked Social Services to take them into care. However, each time a social worker came to inspect their home his mother would clean up and make sure that there was food in the cupboards. Neither he nor his siblings were ever removed from the family home. His parents continue to be unreliable and are not in a position to support him; instead they borrow money from him and forgot to pay it back. Jason’s only positive role model in the family was his older sister who took a maternal role from early on in their lives. His father is currently serving a custodial sentence.

Jason returned to the community a fortnight before he turned 18. He was considered to have a high risk of reoffending not least because he felt quite justified in continuing to drive illegally. As part of his licence conditions Jason was put on a six week curfew between 7pm and 7am and also had 25 hours of high intensive supervision a week. He was convinced that he would soon be back in custody – partly because his licence conditions prevented him from celebrating his forthcoming birthday, and having been refused any flexibility on this front, he was sure that he would breach his order. But also, from Jason’s perspective, returning to custody has benefits, including that he would have three meals a day and somewhere to sleep each night. This was in contrast to his pre-existing situation – where he was of no fixed abode because he couldn’t move back to the family home as when he last stayed there he was assaulted with a machete. He told his resettlement worker not to bother getting to know him too well as he anticipated being back in custody quite quickly.

By February 2014, Jason remained living in a temporary hostel, while having been on the local authority housing list for 14 months. His case worker is helping him to acquire homelessness status so that he can access emergency housing. Yet despite a doctor’s letter describing how the current situation is affecting his mental health and causing paranoia, this has not given him the priority status that he needed. He is now on medication for depression. He aspires to be a drug and alcohol worker for children whose parents are substance misusers.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes