Last year I took a group of young people on a tour of the House of Commons; one of the pleasures of being an MP, but nothing out of the ordinary. The difference on this occasion was that I was with a group of young ex-offenders being supported by Key 4 Life, an organisation that uses sport and music to unlock their lives and then provides the mentoring and support they need to successfully re-enter society.
As we were standing among the green benches, one young man in his early twenties asked me what it was like to speak in the House when it was full, with the difficulty of the noise and people shouting at you. He wanted to know how MPs tried to compose themselves to deal with the challenging environment. He then told me that he had spent time in a young offender institution, for dealing in class A drugs, and with the help of Key 4 Life now had a new job working with a financial company in London. The young man finished off his story by adding that you don’t deal in class A drugs because you are stupid and can’t do anything else. He had regarded it as a difficult job, but one that brought high financial rewards. He can now see that it was the wrong path to take, and one that could have destroyed his life, as well as those of other people.
To end up in a young offender institution often means that you have consistently offended since your childhood, and that you will go on doing so as an adult. If, upon release, a young offender returns to the old friends and bad influences that they came from, the impact of prison, such as it was, will soon be a distant memory.
Thanks to Key 4 Life, this intelligent young man has been able to change his focus, supported by new friends and mentors who will help keep him on track. Only 18% of those who have been through the Key 4 Life programme have re-offended, compared to the national proven re-offending rate of 74%.