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Breaking free from crime

If you've served time in a prison or a young offender's institute, there could be a number of hurdles to get over when you leave. looks at the after-effects of being in custody and what help is available.

Most of us have been brought up to know that if we do something wrong, we're likely to get punished. But if you get sent down for a crime, it's not as easy as simply being told off or grounded. Many young people who've been in custody find it hard to get a job, re-build relationships, or find somewhere to live.

Life after sentencing

The Young Offender Institution Rules 1988, say the aim of an institute is to help offenders prepare for their return to the outside community by providing education, training and work. This is designed to help offenders develop personal responsibility, self-discipline, physical fitness, interests and skills, and get a job after being released.

But life after being in a young offenders' institute was far from easy for 25 year-old Matt Bowes, who was sentenced to six months at the age of 16: "After leaving the young offenders' institute it was hard to get onto a straight path again," says Matt. "I couldn't get a job or get into college and I still got into trouble and was doing the same things as when I was younger. I think for people who want to change, you've got to move away from the area and the situation you're in, because it's so hard to change when you've got the same people around you who influence you so much."

Young people in custody speak out

Young people revealed their opinions on the prison system in a report published by the Home Office in 2000. Many said they weren't prepared enough for life back in the community after leaving prison. They talked of various problems they faced when leaving custody: being tempted back into crime; not being able to get a job or getting the right qualifications; having too little money to live off; problems with friends and family; dealing with anger; keeping fit and healthy; and staying away from drink and drugs.

One respondent said: "You get one town visit and then you're out, bam. You're on the road and you've been outside of society for years, and then, bam, you're back. Even in your own town, it's like being in a time warp, yet at the same time, everything's changed."

Resettlement support for ex-offenders

There are a number of projects and initiatives to help ex-offenders settle back into the community and not back into a life of crime.

Prince's Trust
The charity uses the ethos 'if you have a record of offending, it's history to us'. It offers a 12-week 'Team Course' to develop new skills, build confidence and gain a qualification. There's also an opportunity to win a development award of between £50 and £500 to help ex-offenders move into work, training and education or get assistance in starting up a business or developing a musical talent.

Nacro runs services to help resettle ex-offenders and prisoners, provide advice and information and education and employment and help. Nacro's Resettlement Plus Helpline (020 7840 6464) offers information and advice to ex-offenders, serving prisoners, families, friends and organisations working with them. A free number is available for ex-offenders and their families and friends on†0800 0181 259.

Youth At Risk
This is a charity dedicated to young people who've got involved with crime, exclusion from school, unemployment, drug and alcohol abuse and other self-harm.

Women in Prison
Women in Prison aims to make a difference to women at risk in custody, and when leaving, by promoting their resettlement, personal development, education and training.

Inside Out Trust
The Inside Out Trust has designed prison projects so prisoners learn to develop goods and services to disadvantaged people all over the world and learn new skills to improve their employment prospects after release.

Prisoner's Education Trust
The Prisoner's Education Trust offers education and training to people in prison to enable successful resettlement of offenders once they are released.

Unlock is the National Association of Ex-Offenders. It supports ex-offenders and†serving prisoners in planning life after their release and rebuilding their lives after leaving crime behind.

Life Change UK
Provides support to young adult offenders, enabling them to stop re-offending.

Langley House Trust
Offers accommodation and support for ex-offenders looking to resettle in the community.

St Giles Trust
St Giles Trust aims to prevent offending and improve community safety by helping disadvantaged offenders and homeless people to build independent and successful lives.

New Bridge Foundation
Works with prisoners and former offenders to help them keep in touch with the outside world and prepare to rejoin it.

Bridging the Gap
Aims to help reduce re-offending by helping discharged prisoners settle into their communities after release.

Updated: 03/09/2012

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