Stop Throwing Your Money Away
The reoffending statistics for 2011/12 showed 73% of young offenders reoffended within a year of leaving custody compared with 47% of adult offenders. Although YOIs are contracted to deliver 15 hours of education a week for each offender, they often fail to do so. Half of all the 15-17-year-olds sent to young offender institutions are assessed as having the literacy levels of a seven-11 year old, with 88% of the young male offenders having been excluded from school.
Chris Grayling, the then Justice secretary, said the youth custody green paper provided an opportunity for a radically different approach: “Some youth custodial places cost £200,000, five times the cost of sending a child to a top private school. But nearly three-quarters of young people leaving custody reoffend.” He further commented that “We cannot go on just doing more of the same, pouring more money into a system that doesn’t work in the hope of a different outcome. That doesn’t make any sense to the taxpayer or to the young people who we should be trying to get back on the straight and narrow.”
What has changed, and who can make a difference to this prolonged picture?
We are Taking Positive Steps
Be The Change
For many years as service providers dealing with young people with challenging behaviour, we have often relied on our position of authority to intimidate them get them to conform. Equally, the criminal justice system uses incarceration, as punishment. There is no regards, to who this young person is as an individual, or what pain and suffering they may be experiencing. Nevertheless these are two institutions who are trying to use their power, fear and intimidation to elicit change. There is no statistics that indicates that this has any impact, change in a young person who doesn’t much care for the norms of society. With the knowledge that social norms are not of much importance should we be aiming to do things differently? We want to see change, should we be practice the change we want to see. Mahatma Gandhi highlighted that “Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent then the one derived from fear of punishment”. Which power are you using?
When The Elderly Die
Taking Positive Steps has a comprehensive team who have worked with young people in the criminal justice system and gangs for over two decades.
Within our remit our ‘Violence Intervention Program’ we educate schools, churches and community groups and professionals on gang awareness, and working and engaging with hard to reach young people.
Taking Positive Steps provides these programs because collectively we know the sadness and senseless violence amongst young people all too well.
We all know that in the gang world, you can be certain of three outcomes: incarceration, serious bodily injury or death.
As a team we have had the sad experience of seeing many young people incarcerated for a long time. More concerning, we have seen many individuals who have followed the gang life, and the sadder experience of having heard the wail of a victim’s mother who arrived at the scene of their dead child. The deafening wail of a mother is a sound that resonates with one and won’t go away.
Sadly in this day and age, society is becoming increasingly desensitized to the merciless killing of our youth. Sadly, it appears that children have lost connectivity with their ancestry and seem to be adrift which often leads to gang involvement.
Too many children fall prey to the gang life because they are looking for a sense of family, love, power, money, and perceived safety. However what’s interesting is that their needs fall in line with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The first four steps — physiological needs, safety needs, love and belonging needs and esteem needs — are something everyone needs and have fallen far too short for those who become gang members. Unfortunately, getting to the fifth step of self-actualisation doesn’t even come into play for most, due to gang-life, incarceration, serious bodily injury or death.
There are so many shortcomings that drive young boys and girls into gang life. Serious turmoil in the home, not enough to eat, a parent or both parents unemployed, living below the breadline, on drugs just to name a few ailments.
Another issue is an education system that doesn’t have the patience, understanding or resources to accommodate or deal with home lifestyles that may cause a child to act out in school, and consequently the child is expelled from school and fed into the gang machine, where members are more than happy to take them in, not for love but to further their monetary gains from the sale of drugs.
Among gang members, there is an “assumed destiny,” and many have told me they don’t expect to live beyond the age of 19/250, so they are going to ride as hard and fast as they can, while they can. They are correct; the sad reality is the average life expectancy of an active gang member is 20 years and 5 months.
For a boy or girl who has never had enough of basic sustenance and, certainly, never the things they see others who are more fortunate to have, they will risk consequences to have them.
To the innocent, gang life is attractive and seems exciting and flashy, even comforting, to those who don’t have much and probably never will by their own merits. However gang life is like an out of control, fast-moving train which is destined to leave the track all too soon.
Our ‘Plea’ is don’t let the gangs write the final chapter of the life of our youths. We need to provide them with constant and consistent care, and the all-powerful weapon of love.
For those who have successfully broken from the gang-life grip and have gone on to find success in life, they will often acknowledge that their faith in God and the fact that others did not, and have not, given up on them saved their life.
Everyone has potential, and it must be nurtured from an early age. We who have achieved need to look back and lend a helping hand to those who need it.
And guess what? You may be surprised at the outcome.