The programme, called ‘Triage’, targets young people who have offended or are at risk of doing so. By intervening early, and before a pattern of offending behaviour can take hold, the programme helps young people take stock of their actions and turn their back on criminal activity.
The Howard League, a national penal reform charity, has selected it as a contender for this year’s ‘Community Programmes Awards’ 2015.
Triage works with young people aged between 10 and 17 years, who have committed a low-level offence. To be eligible for the programme, the person must admit the offence upon arrest, be remorseful of their actions, and have no previous convictions.
The programme uses restorative justice principles, encouraging the offender to recognise the impact that their criminal behaviour has had on their victims, on themselves, on their family, and on their community.
Richard Meads, Deputy Head of Service at Southend Youth Offending Service, said: “Triage provides an opportunity to repair the harm that young offenders have caused to their victims.
“At Southend we hold a strong ethos on the value of prevention and the Triage scheme has been key in reducing the number of young people entering the criminal justice system.”
The scheme was created in partnership with Essex Police, and victims of the crimes committed are also involved. Southend YOS achieves high levels of victim participation, which leads to better outcomes for both the young person who has offended and for the victim themselves.
Winners of the awards will be announced at The Howard League national conference, which is being held tomorrow in London.
A 16-year-old boy, who committed arson, was referred to the Triage scheme for early intervention as he had no prior convictions.
During the assessment it was established that he had previously been setting things alight as a child. He was not engaged in any form of education or training, and was in foster care, where he spent much time with a high-offending peer group.
One week after being referred to Triage, Southend YOS arranged for the boy to meet the local fire service, which accepted him onto its ‘Firebreak’ course. There he completed a week of activities and learned about fire safety. After this he took part in a restorative justice conference and then wrote a letter of apology to his victims and those who had been most affected by his actions.
The YOS case officer also worked closely with social services to help work through other issues which would enable the young boy to return to his family home and be reunited with his parents.
With more self-confidence, positive influences and support, he was able to go home and get back into education and make better friends. He is currently taking part in a work experience scheme with a local retail outlet, gaining valuable work experience whilst still attending college. The fire service also asked him to return to become a fire fighter cadet.
Seven months on, his future is brighter and better and he hasn’t reoffended.