Beyond Youth Custody


Lee is 19-years-old. He’s in jail for a violent offence that he still feels was justified; he considers that he was merely protecting himself. He experienced trauma as a child and has mental health difficulties. Lee is severely isolated. Several professionals he’s met recently consider him to have a personality disorder because he finds it so hard to engage with other people.

Lee doesn’t get to phone home very much – he hasn’t got many phone credits because he finds it difficult to use the top-up system. He’s being bullied by other prisoners because he stole a phone and they found out.  Lee is on the vulnerable prisoners unit but currently can’t go outside his cell. Even if he could make phone calls more readily he can’t communicate with his family about what is actually going on for him. There’s a lot of conflict between different family members and it’s impossible to sort that out within the limits of a prison visit or a phone call – having an honest, emotionally charged conversation in those circumstances is extremely difficult.

While he was on remand, Lee’s main source of support was his younger brother, a 17year-old student. Their parents are elderly and in ill health. The family’s financial pressures and the time it takes to travel to the prison make visiting extremely difficult; it’s a long way to go for only a short visit. Lee’s brother would like to visit Lee and take Lee’s young daughter along, but Lee’s girlfriend is hesitant to let his brother take the little girl to see her father because she is frightened of him. She’s planning to leave him and just disappear while he’s in jail. Lee’s mum supports his girlfriend’s decision. They all expect that Lee will be devastated when he finds out.

Lee’s mum wants to keep visiting him in prison but his dad’s very angry with Lee and doesn’t want her to go. She feels ashamed, humiliated and degraded by being searched and given short shrift by prison officers. She remembers vividly that once when she visited, there was a lock-down, so she could only have 20 minutes with her son. She had travelled three hours to see him and had expected to be with him for an hour.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes