Venture Trust have been making a big difference to young people in conflict with the law – or at risk of being so – through its person-centred criminal justice programmes. Mike Strang, Venture Trust’s Chief Operating Officer reflects back on what has worked, and why it’s helping change lives.
“I used to think that people couldn’t change, but now I do. Everybody deserves a second chance” Laurence
Venture Trust supports young people involved in the criminal justice system or at risk of involvement due to difficult life circumstances. Nearly half the young people we support through our personal development programmes are in conflict with the law. Unsurprisingly, alongside being caught up in the justice system these young people face other issues including mental health difficulties, anti-social behaviour, history of substance misuse, long term unemployment, homelessness, low academic achievement, fragmented family relationships and care-experienced background.
For the young people we work with, stability, confidence, resilience and motivation are missing from their lives. Venture Trust’s programmes aim to develop and unlock the behaviours and skills needed by young people to think about what they would like to achieve and work towards their goals.
Our programmes work because they are person-centred and sustained. Regular community-based outreach support wrapped around a Wilderness Journey usually in the highlands of Scotland, challenges young people to develop skills by adapting to their new environment and going out of their comfort zone. They have the potential to build skills around problem solving, decision making, critical thinking, conflict resolution and much more.
We understand the benefits of keeping young people convicted of offending out of prison when appropriate and instead supporting them to address the underlying issues that led them to getting involved in the justice system. Research from the Scottish Sentencing Council has highlighted the need for considering each young person and their circumstances on an individual basis and putting rehabilitation first when sentencing them.
“I was having a lot of family problems and the trip helped me get back on my feet. Connecting with people that believe in you, push you to achieve what you’re capable of, and don’t bring you down when you can’t do something. It’s amazing the work Venture Trust does” CK
Evidence shows short prison sentences don’t work if the aim of sending someone to prison to rehabilitate them. They are enough to disrupt employment, medical care, housing, and family relationships, but not long enough to tackle the true causes of offending behaviour. People jailed for a few months come back out even further from finding a route out of crime than they were when they went in.
Across our criminal justice work in the past year we saw 74% of people improve their stability, 74% improve their resilience and 82% improve their employability. Most importantly, the young people we worked with said our service made a difference.
“The life that I now have is brilliant compared to what it was like. I thought I was a failure and that I was going to die in that horrible existence of addiction, prison, violence and fear” Stephen
About our blogger
Mike Strang is the Chief Operating Officer at Venture Trust, a personal development charity supporting people struggling with involvement in Scotland’s criminal justice system, long term unemployment and mental health and wellbeing.