Beyond Youth Custody


Rory didn’t look like the others kids at his school, and he was overweight. School was tough.

“Fat kids are the easiest to pick on, so everybody thought they could just pick on me. But they didn’t realise who I was.”

On the estate where he lived, Rory was affiliated to ‘a group of people, a group of my peers’.

“You sort of feel bigger about yourself when you’re in a gang because you know, if something happens to you, then you know you can go back and tell the people that you’re hanging around with… they’ll come and help you. I thought of it like that. Then when I thought of it like that, every time… somebody came to fight me, I’d be like, ‘come on then… cool, let’s fight’.”

Rory remembers being ‘permanently in detention’ at school, and almost constant fighting, which lead to his exclusion, ‘I think it was six times in all’. He spent most of year 11 ‘walking the streets’.

“I was on the streets twenty-four-seven… smoking weed, selling weed, selling crack… out there late nights, robbing people… doing everything that I shouldn’t have been doing.”

Rory made ‘a few grand’ from the crimes he committed with his peers, but although, “Money was the motive for most of the people… for me it was more the adrenaline and fighting… I know this sounds really bad, but I love fighting.”

By his mid-teens, Rory was sentenced to four months in a young offender’s institution for robbery. At some point he was diagnosed as having ADHD and bipolar disorder, for which he was briefly medicated. Rory reports little professional intervention in custody.

“In prison they just sort of, ‘see how the day goes’. If you’re in a bad way… they’ll keep an eye on you… they’ll like, open your [door] flap every hour, just to see how you’re doing. And say you’ve got an hour free, and you’re allowed to walk around, then they’ll keep you sort of separate from everyone. They sort of isolate you for the day if they think you’re in a bad place.”

During the last month of his sentence, Rory’s YOT worker visited him weekly to prepare him for release. Rory’s family were re-housed due to his gang-affiliation, and moved the day after he was released from custody. Once out, the same YOT worker got Rory on an anger management course which ‘worked for a few months’.

“Before I went on that course, I’d switch like that, you just look at me and I’d be like, ‘Fuck you looking at bro? What?’ It took a little while, but after the course, if it was to happen again, I’d be like, ‘boy, they must be jealous of my clothes, coz I know there ain’t nothing to look at’.”

Although he’s been out of prison for nearly two years, and has now received counselling via CAMHS, he still struggles with his anger:

“Our friend died… I was on a bus the day after. Some guy was sitting there reading the paper, and our bredren was in it. He was sitting there reading his paper, saying, ‘Oh, what a dickhead little kid’. I jumped up… I was fighting on the bus. I don’t care when I’m in bad mood. My friend’s died, I’m in bad state.”

Rory recognises that his struggle is a continuing one.

“Basically I’ve got all the diseases that make you want to fight all wrapped up inside of me, and I’ve been tested, so I know… you go across me, and I’m gonna push you back. They say something back to me then, I’ve got to bite my tongue quite hard, because I’m thinking [roars], it’s just inside of me. When I have good days, I have good days and when I have bad days, I have bad days… I mean, you bottle things up for years, that’s a lot of stuff.”

Rory continues to attend the project. He no longer associates with his former criminal gang, but he still struggles with anger.

“You can wake up in a good mood. You wake up in a bad mood, you’re depressed all day. You fight when you’re down. You’re depressed, and you’re in a bad way, so any little thing can make you wanna… go for people, you know what I’m saying?”

Tagged with the theme:

Resettlement of young offenders: informing practice, improving outcomes