“Thank you for helping me start a new chapter in my life.”
These are the words of a young person leaving prison, recognising a second chance and a new beginning. Within them is the hope of a brighter, better future and a high level of motivation. Unfortunately, the statistics show that, despite the resolve and good intentions, many young offenders end up back in prison within a year of release.
As followers of Jesus, we know what it is to be set free from our past and to start anew. The very idea of repentance is to turn away from offending and to change our direction of travel. But we quickly grasp how immensely challenging that is. My own faith journey has led to the realisation that repentance is both a one-off event and a daily experience. Change does not come easily, however much we want it, it rarely happens in isolation and often needs the support of others.
In2Out provides vital mentoring support for 15-21 years old prison leavers. Our participants want to change and realise that they need help to achieve it. We journey with them as they choose a new direction for their lives. Our ‘through the gate’ support starts as they approach release from prison and continues for a year or more back in their communities. In2Out staff are motivated by their personal faith and having experienced forgiveness and a new life, we work with participants without judgement. When we look at them, we see beyond the crime to the unique individual, full of potential who can change with the right support.
“Life is complicated. Jail isn’t.”
The reality is that life after prison is daunting for young people. The idea that they return home having ‘learnt their lesson’ and can just get on with life, is completely unrealistic. A lot of them return to the same areas as before, the same estates with all the temptations and old contacts. The vast majority of young prison leavers are unable to effect change on their own. In fact, some young offenders want to return to custody because sadly it is the place where they have felt safest and most cared for. It is also without all the complications and challenges of their life in the community.
Young people in prison are some of the most vulnerable and marginalised in our society, with a high percentage having suffered some form of childhood abuse or neglect. Many have chaotic lifestyles lived out in areas of social deprivation. Approximately 60% of our participants have been in local authority care. This is compared to 52% among all young offenders and just 1% in the general population. Young people leaving prison often simply lack the guidance, positive life experiences, support network and emotional maturity to navigate life ‘on the out’.
The number of young people in prison continues to fall. As a result, those who do receive a custodial sentence are the most challenging in terms of the frequency and severity of their offending. They also have a high level of complexity of issues and degree of vulnerability. As a result, there is a ‘distillation’ of deprivation, abuse, neglect and mental health issues, requiring individualised, creative and committed support from our mentors.
“When I talk about you… I say you are like a mum ‘cos I never really had a mum. That’s how I see you.”
Mike* wrote a rap about his experience. In it he says:
Been around different care homes
Wish I could thrive
And not hurt people with knives
Just wish I could live a new life.
What does a new life look like? It’s not just about not reoffending and ending up back in prison. It’s about a future of hope, about fulfilling potential, recognising self-worth and ability. It’s about healthy relationships, connection, participation and contribution. It’s about less fear, more confidence and resilience against setbacks.
We are a participating charity in the Big Give Christmas Challenge. Through our campaign – After doing time, help our young people do life – we aim to raise £15,000 for vital mentoring support for our participants. Having an In2Out mentor working with them can significantly help our young people successfully resettle back in their communities across the North of England and the Midlands. A donation to our campaign can have twice the impact, as it will be doubled for as long as matching funds are available.
* name changed