Beyond Youth Custody

New report on gangs says focus on resettlement after custody to reduce crime

7 April 2015 | Tagged with the theme:

Research from Beyond Youth Custody released today looks at how to address the growing concern of managing gang-involved young people when they are released from prison. The report plugs a worrying knowledge gap on how to support gang-involved young people to exit gangs and move on from crime. The report, Gang involved young people – custody and beyond, is based on and review of current literature, testimonies from young people themselves and those working with them in custody and the community.

Key findings include:

  • Gang violence is a growing concern in specific young offenders institutions (YOIs) with increasing pressure on staff and young people
  • Understanding how to address gang associations on release is weak
  • Young people in gangs are often cut off from youth workers or mentors that work with them to exit gangs in the community when in custody
  • Exiting a gang is a process and those working with young people in gangs need a realistic strategy to build resilience and help them to move on
  • An ex-gang mentor may not always be the right fit for some young people. Mentors can come from across society and must match with individuals needs
  • Young people who are relocated are at particular risk of relapse into gang activity and criminality. Intensive support which is tailored around an individual is required to avoid a relapse
  • There are specific concerns about girls and young women recognising and reporting gang related crime
  • Gang-involved young people are likely to have experienced, perpetrated or witnessed serious violence. Exposure to such violence puts gang-involved young people at increase likelihood of mental illness and trauma
  • Families can play a key role in helping young people involved in gangs to resettle after custody and skilled workers are required to navigate complex dynamics of families involved

Based on the reports findings, the authors of the report – Fiona Factor, Professor John Pitts and Dr Tim Bateman – have produced a practice based guide for those working with gang-involved young people. The practitioner’s guide examines how knowledge about the specific needs of gang-involved young people and the factors relating to desistance from gang-related crime can inform effective practice with current and former gang-involved young people during their time in custody and beyond.

Download the practitioners guide here: Gang involved young people – custody and beyond – a practitioner’s guide

Download the full research report here: Gang involved young people – custody and beyond – a research report

Sally Benton, Nacro Head of Policy, said:

“There has been a worrying lack of attention into what happens when gang-involved young people are released into the community after spending time in custody. Recent inspection reports highlight acute problems of gang-related violence within the secure estate but fail to address how to tackle it and how to move young people on.

The report today seeks to plug this gap. For gang-involved young people offending can lead to a destructive cycle of crime that they often fall into and struggle to get out of. If we are going to effectively resettle young people back into society then we have to get better at understanding what is required when people leave custody. We have to think differently about the services and support people need and how they are delivered.

We not only have to address homelessness, drugs and alcohol misuse, mental health problems, family relationships and trauma but we also have to enable young people to change the way they think about themselves and build resilience. If we do this then we have a genuine opportunity to reduce reoffending and prevent the creation of more victims of crime.”

Penelope Gibbs Chair, Standing Committee for Youth Justice, said:

“Release from custody is a pivotal point for children who’ve been involved in gangs. Child custody – particularly Feltham YOI – has a very long way to go in addressing gang-related issues. We welcome this research that helps us understand the support these children need to stay safe and turn their lives around on release.”

Kate Bond, Creating Positive Futures Co-ordinator, New Horizon Youth Centre said:

“Our experience of supporting young people shows that successful resettlement requires consistent holistic support and strong partnerships between custody and the community. These partnerships are even more essential when it comes to meeting the resettlement needs of young people impacted by gang involvement. Appropriate accommodation in a safe area is a key factor in young people’s ability to move forward. New Horizon Youth Centre and the Creating Positive Futures Project welcome this report and the opportunity it has provided to the young people we work with to have their voices and needs heard.”

Junior Smart, Business Development Manager on St Giles Trust’s SOS Project, said:

“We welcome the recommendations in today’s Beyond Youth Custody report. Gang affected young people, their families and wider communities need intensive, tailored support to address highly complex issues so they can move forward. We need to listen to them as they hold the key to the answer and our role is to help put in place the support and services to help them realise this.”

Rachel Sturrock, Researcher, Catch 22 Dawes Unit, said:

“This project fills a worrying gap in the UK evidence base on gang-involved young people. Our recent Catch22 Dawes Unit project ‘Gangs in Prison’ found that prison was a clear ‘teachable moment’ for gang-involved prisoners. However, staff and prisoners were concerned that any change would be hard to sustain in the community under pressure from the gang. We have found that gang members have significant barriers during resettlement and this report will provide much-needed illumination in this area.”



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