Latest statistics on homeless people going into prison are a shocking indictment of our support system

(13 February, 2019) Editorials

As long as the root causes of serious youth violence are allowed to fester, the police and justice system will always be left struggling

27900A Redthread youth worker

New statistics showing that 27 per cent of all people going into prison are homeless are a shocking indictment of the support system that is meant to protect vulnerable people from harm.

We know that prisoners are disproportionately more likely to have grown up in care, suffer from mental health difficulties, and have low literacy and numeracy skills.

By the time someone is behind bars, they have already reached a crisis point where successive interventions have failed.

A long-term stay should be an opportunity to put this right, but too many prisons are dangerous, overcrowded and beset by serious problems with drugs and violence.

Many lack the long-term funding to truly rehabilitate prisoners with education, psychological and emotional support. Those on short-term stays are even less likely to come back into the outside world equipped to deal with the challenges of mainstream society.

While the Government gets to grips with the crisis, and campaigners lobby for tougher sentencing or alternatives to jail, anything that stops vulnerable people spiralling into a cycle of reoffending is a good thing. Inevitably, some of these tactics will mean heavier enforcement. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced that knife crime offenders will be tagged with GPS trackers upon release in Southwark, as our borough is one of the most affected by knife crime.

The Home Office is also introducing new knife crime prevention orders, with powers to limit social media use, and stop young people at risk from travelling into areas where they may be harmed, or do harm.

These initiatives show our justice system is heading in the right direction. But as long as the root causes of serious youth violence are allowed to fester, the police and justice system will always be left struggling.

On page 9, we meet one of charity Redthread’s youth workers, who give support to young people at what is often the worst moment of their life; when they find themselves in hospital, possibly with life-changing injuries after being stabbed, shot, beaten or abused by a rival gang, a so-called friend, or a stranger.

Their role isn’t to replicate the work of other agencies, but to try to help guide a vulnerable youth so they accept help, or make a lasting lifestyle change, when other interventions have failed.  Dulwich Hamlet FC could not have picked a more worthy charity partner, nor one more aligned with its own ethos.

Both Redthread and the club know the importance of positive role models, true friendship and guidance, and safe social media. Sport has a huge role to play in helping children build this reliance to help them deal with the challenges life can throw in their paths.

This Saturday, the club is fundraising for the charity, and debuting a special kit that will be auctioned off to raise funds. If you’re at Champion Hill, please consider supporting this worthy cause.

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