Project: Mentoring young offenders ‘through the gate’
Fund: Police Property Act
Trailblazers is a national charity that reduces re-offending among young people through providing volunteer mentors. So many of those Trailblazers work with have experienced tragically damaged lives and often have little self-belief or hope that things can change and that their lives can be ‘normal’.
Trailblazers was awarded a grant of £5,000 for to carry out their ‘through the gate’ mentoring project at HMYOI Aylesbury. The project aims to build a relationship of trust with a young adult prior to release; the offender will then be better equipped to face the challenges following release and to lead a life free from crime.
Their approach to mentoring is structured and the mentor and mentee work through six toolsets which address both behavioural and practical issues, inspire young offenders to change their attitude and behaviour, support them to become positive members of society and achieve their potential without returning to crime. The prison staff met with eligible young offenders to carry out initial risk and needs assessments. They then matched them with a carefully selected, trained and vetted adult mentor.
One of the strengths of the programme is that mentoring typically commences 3-9 months prior to release and then continues in the community post-release.
We started with Tom* in January 2017 and the prospects were not good. He was known to be quite disruptive to the regime and really quite a troubled young man, but he was also influential amongst his peers.
Through the course of the mentoring between January and October he progressively transformed and with his innate intelligence was able to start using his remaining time much more constructively. He secured a job within the prison at the “Redemption Roasters” workshop and became a natural leader of the team. Relations with some members of the prison establishment remained rocky but overall, he became a much more positive influence within the regime.
Tom was released on 13th October – and in the absence of any family there to meet him (not an unusual occurrence) he was walked through the gate with his mentor and Trailblazers’ CEO. That initial moment of exhilaration at his new-found freedom was priceless to experience.
Through his training with Redemption Roasters he secured employment with them straight from release. Sixteen months on from his release he has recently married, and moved into his own apartment. Tom continues to work within the coffee trade and has regular contact with Trailblazers – although the formal mentoring process has been concluded. The extent of his journey from May 2017 to January 2019 has been enormous and testament to his resilience, his burgeoning self-belief (from a low base) and the outstanding work of his mentor.