Beyond Youth Custody


At the age of 15, Peter had already been in prison four times. By the time he got to 23, he had spent nearly seven years of his life in custody. During his last sentence (of three years), Peter made a choice to change and decided to break his cycle of reoffending. On a weekly basis, he spoke to the Christian Chaplain one-to-one, and worked on regulating his emotions and behaviour.

When his release date was in sight, the Chaplaincy team referred Peter to the resettlement project. He was matched with a mentor, and they got to know each other inside. Peter’s mum had struggled to put food on the table and the family would regularly only eat one meal a day. Peter had regular contact with his father who was an alcoholic and would often physically abuse Peter after a night of drinking; the family were known to social services. When life at home became unbearable, Peter decided to leave for good. He was thirteen. With no place to go, Peter lived on the street. He fell in with a group of young people who were heavily into criminal activity.

Peter’s parents are Black, and Peter is Black British. From an early age Peter had felt that he didn’t quite ‘fit in’ or belong. The group of (white) boys he got involved with quite openly treated him like he was beneath them because he was Black. They exploited his vulnerabilities and he spiralled further into an identity crisis. They took advantage of him; he went from petty crime to serious crime. Peter was making good money. He should have been making more money, but the gang were ripping him off. After this, and having discovered another group who took an alternative view to his ethnicity, he switched gangs. This move required him to be particularly aggressive; he got the reputation as someone you didn’t mess with. He continued to sell drugs and started using them himself. As an addict, his money dwindled and he started stealing to finance his habit.

Peter’s mentor met him at the prison gate. Peter was under probation supervision, so they were made aware that he was working with the project.

Like many ex-offenders, Peter has experienced the stigma associated with having a criminal record, and has struggled to find accommodation and secure employment. Peter didn’t understand the statutory support to which he was entitled. His mentor guided him through agencies and processes in order to ensure access to, for example, Jobseeker’s Allowance. Peter continued to address some of his deep-seated psychological issues by meeting with a counsellor. His mentor has been able to encourage him to attend these tough appointments, and has been on-hand to help Peter process his new identity.

Peter’s mentor has provided holistic support during their regular one-to-one meetings. This had allowed Peter to stay focused and keep travelling in his chosen direction. Peter currently meets his mentor once a week for continued support. Together, they persist when things don’t work out as planned.

For the first time in years Peter has been able to start rebuilding meaningful relationships with his family. He was even able to live with family when he was experiencing accommodation difficulties. This would not have been possible previously.

Peter has not been reconvicted in almost two years. He attributes his progress to the support he has received from his mentor and to the project.

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes