It was great to give a course on working with young offenders for CILIP South East yesterday with John Vincent of The Network. The participants were highly experienced and deeply committed, with representatives from galleries, archives, public libraries and libraries in prisons and young offender institutions (YOIs). We explored how cultural and heritage organisations can contribute to YOIs’ agendas in terms of building young offenders’ confidence and self-esteem, fostering practical and social skills, and reducing re-offending rates. I found the debates about the constituents of effective projects and on-going work to support young offenders particularly interesting. Evidence shows that young offenders are more likely to respond enthusiastically to schemes that tie in with their interests and experiences, produce something tangible, and give them a sense of achievement. The involvement of the young people themselves in decisions is crucial. Storybook Dads, the Six Book Challenge and the Arts Award have been used extremely successfully in many YOIs, to give just a few examples. We talked about the importance of developing good partnerships between YOIs and cultural and heritage organisations, and the value of preventative approaches, working with Youth Offender Teams and virtual schools, for instance. Many thanks to everyone for sharing so many excellent ideas, and an especial thank you to Rachel Westworth for her invaluable case study on her work with young offenders at HMP Lewes.
While on the subject of young offenders, this is a useful article about how ex-offenders are helping turn young people away from crime.