The majority of individuals within the criminal justice system have been exposed to traumatic events across their lives. A considerable body of research now indicates a link between traumatic experiences and subsequent criminal behaviour and aggression, otherwise known as the ‘cycle of violence’. Complex trauma-related problems present in many guises, including seeking-risk or challenging behaviours, and may be the product of coping mechanisms and attempted self-protection. Being trauma informed is a way that non-clinical organisations can demonstrate that they are therapeutic. Thanks to a kind donation by the Rothschild Foundation, we have been able to expand our support and training to allow for the integration of a trauma informed approach. We believe that the principles underpinning trauma informed practice are essential in the delivery of effective support to young people in prison. In particular, developing a trauma informed approach has been central to support our work in our new project, Cookham Wood Youth Offenders Institute (YOI). Up to “90% of justice-involved-youth report exposure to some type of traumatic event” (Dierkhising et al, 2013). The basic assumptions of a trauma informed approach are safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment (Quiros and Berger, 2013). Fundamentally, at the core of our courses, we build strong and influential relationships based on trust, support and through sport education. Trauma informed practice will also allow us to support the participants’ recovery, facilitating personal and social development, and more importantly, avoiding re-traumatization. Complementary to our courses, using a trauma-informed and strengths-based approach will promote natural resiliency and provide young people with the tools to positively manage their emotions. Overall, implementing a trauma informed approach for 3 Pillars Project has involved organizational change, including the reassessment of policies, course practices, and the training of staff. By no means does this assume that our coaches and mentors will be trauma-experts, however, by providing a trauma informed approach, we will be more equipped in our interactions with the participants going forward, emphasising trust, collaboration and safety in particular.
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