Our Chief of Staff, Krissy Brooks recently wrote an exclusive article for Connect Sport, a not-for-profit directory of organisations using sport and physical activity to generate positive social outcomes. The article explores the sport-created communities that support marginalised young men to train, build an education and establish positive and powerful relationships that see them move beyond their pasts, despite global uncertainty.
You can see the published article on Connect Sport here or read it below.
JJ [not his real name] is 31 and doesn’t know how to use his smart phone. Events over the past five years – moving between prisons and sporadic days on release with his family – have meant that when he was let out on day release in early March, he has seen relatively little of the outside world for half a decade. A typical prison-leaver walks out of the gate with £46 in their pocket. They won’t have identity documents and will be at either a halfway hostel or back with a family member if they are lucky. Many are released homeless, with more than a third reporting having no where to sleep upon release. Until they sort out a job or support, that money covers, food, sleep, and potentially dependents. Imagine a factory reset on all your adult life, then factor in unemployment and uncertain housing – the anxiety and stress levels are high. Finding your way home would also be easier if you could use your smartphone!
For the past five months, Covid-19 social distancing rules have meant JJ has spent 22 hours a day in his cell. It’s nearly impossible to do social distancing without using prolonged solitary confinement. Two thirds of the UK prison population have effectively been in solitary confinement for five months. General international consensus is that 14 days in solitary does permanent damage to mental health. JJ must now face the pandemic-ruled outside world, which, is now a very different place from the one he left five years ago. To have a chance at a ‘successful’ future he will have to not only get a handle on the latest touch-screen device, but navigate a pandemic-crippled job market, an economic depression and a society scrambling to realign. We know that someone leaving prison faces a steep uphill climb. Eighty per cent of prisoners are not in PAYE employment a year after release. Quality employment is one of the core causes behind re-offending, 30% of adult prison leavers re-offend with one year. Covid-19 has made the post-release journey much harder.
How can you support a person navigating this complex path? Our answer is to start with sport. We resumed our post-release support three months a