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It's all in a day out

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

A day out, discovering new things and gaining new experiences, introduces possibilities and builds confidence as lads tackle life after prison and consider the way ahead.

The sun is shining down on Hadrian's Wall, that great ancient tourist attraction in the north of England, and a young guy is climbing over the rocks and taking in the view, astonished that he can see so far. He's mesmerised by the ruined forts and particularly the Roman creature comforts. "It's really interesting to think that all this was here 2000 years ago, in all this luxury, with underfloor heating and everything. Most people don't have underfloor heating now."

Cameron is 20 years old and, apart from his time in prison, he's only left his home town twice before. Having stayed out of trouble for 12 months since his release from prison, he's chosen to come to Hadrian's Wall with his In2Out Mentor to mark the milestone. Looking back on the year he says: "Each day has had its challenges. It was hard just not knowing what would come next."

A year 'on the out' might not sound such a big deal, but the reoffending rate for 15-18 years old in the year after release from custody is at over 65%.

Many prisoners, whatever their age, find themselves in the seemingly never-ending cycle of crime and punishment, with young offenders migrating into the adult justice system. So, how did Cameron find staying out for a year? "I didn't really think about it. I know for a lot of lads they don't manage that... so I suppose it's an achievement, but to be honest it doesn't feel like something to celebrate because I was in prison one year ago - and that's not a great thing."

Hadrian's Wall may seem an unlikely site for celebration for a 20 year old when there were other options on offer, but it was what Cameron wanted. "I've never been here before... I haven't really been far from home. I was just interested to see what was here."

Emotional Space

Harry's been out and about too, with his Mentor, spending the day in his chosen destination, Malham, a popular place in the Yorkshire Dales. "It was just somewhere I'd always wanted to go and to get away from the same old shit in the city."

Going out for the day with his In2Out Mentor has proven to be a lovely way to develop a meaningful relationship. Out in the countryside, an oasis of tranquility and peace, walking side-by-side, is less confrontational and private for offloading all that is on his mind. Unlike the danger of being hurried out of a cafe in town, he can take his time and share his thoughts. As they walk along, they find a tree swing and, of course, Harry has to give it a go, seizing the opportunity to be a child again. Days out are not just about physical space but about emotional space too, providing a positive effect on a participant's mental health. Afterwards Harry said, he had the best day, refreshing his soul, spirit and mind - and relieving his mental stress.

Another In2Out participant who enjoyed some new leisure experiences is Colin. He went on holiday for the first time at the age of 19, when the family of a new friend he had got to know 'on the out' invited him to join them. Shortly after, having shown some interest in faith issues when he was at HMYOI Wetherby, a Christian men's group invited him camping and hiking for the weekend. It was physically very challenging and he wanted to bail out every moment, but he told his Mentor afterwards: "I learned a lot about myself and what I was able to do that I didn't think I could."

Small Worldview

Many young people in custody have chaotic lifestyles, often lived out in areas of social deprivation, coming from troubled backgrounds with 72% having experienced childhood abuse or neglect. With a custodial sentence behind them, life 'on the out' is a huge challenge and many find if difficult to envisage a different way of living. Their worldview can be very small, just getting by and surviving, their self-esteem non-existent without any real hope of positive change for the future.

In2Out provides mentoring and befriending support to young people aged 15-21 leaving custody and returning to communities across the North of England. In developing what we can offer to our participants, we go beyond the more 'standard' mentoring and look to provide positive experiences for our lads. This includes day trips and outings away from their home area, and fun and challenging activities to build self-confidence and resilience. Joining with their In2Out Mentor in these experiences helps them extend their horizons, learn new skills and challenge their perceptions of who they are and what they are capable of.

With the world so dark to them and their sight myopic, we want to open up new possibilities, spark their imaginations and help bring hope for the way ahead.

Looking to the next year, Cameron says: "I want to start work - hopefully that will happen in the next couple of weeks. I'm going to be able to learn on the job, so that's good and then I'll get paid every two weeks or every month - it doesn't really matter, but at least I'll have a bit of money. And I want to visit more places."

Whilst life still has its challenges, he returns home happy with one place crossed off his list.

"Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. It was a really good day."

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