Beyond Youth Custody


Matthew is 21 and, having been released from custody for a domestic burglary, has been referred to one of the Youth In Focus projects by Probation. He has been involved with the criminal justice system from an early age and since turning 18 has been convicted of numerous offences including criminal damage; attempted theft of a motor vehicle; shoplifting; breach of community order and burglary. Matthew acknowledges that alcohol misuse has been at the core of much of his offending.

By the time he was referred to the resettlement project, he had nowhere to live, no qualifications, no job and no money. He had very little contact with his family and struggled with his confidence and self-esteem. Matthew also disclosed a history of mental health problems including self-harming. He described seeing having hallucinations but was resistant to the idea of seeking help from mental health professionals because he was worried about the prospect of being sectioned.

His immediate housing needs could only be addressed by securing him a place in a hostel-type environment with other residents who were also just out of prison. Many of them had their own problems with substance misuse and mental ill-health. Although not ideal, this was the only available starting point for him. However his behaviour was often difficult and erratic and Matthew struggled with paranoia. Despite encouragement and support from his resettlement worker, Matthew found it difficult to engage with mental health services – partly due to his poor communication and social skills. Realizing that the outreach support he desired was not available for him, he was reluctant to accept the type of help on offer and only managed to attend two sessions.

In October 2013 Matthew was recalled to prison. He was convicted a third time for burglary, having breached the terms of his licence. With 18 months to serve, his earliest release date will be April 2015. For Matthew, prison is an easier environment than living in the community. Prison gives him the structure to his daily life that he appreciates – being able to participate in both work and education and having medical services readily available should he need them. Sadly, his current needs are most effectively met in custody, as the intensive level of support that he requires is not available in the community. It has subsequently emerged that he had been hiding knives under his bed at the hostel and had been having fantasies about blowing up a shop.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes