Sports And Physical Activity

Young offenders locked in a secure unit are to be offered sports including orienteering and bush craft as part of a research project to see if challenging, fun activity can help turn lives around. Sports and physical activity are at the heart of the project aimed at helping rehabilitate young people held at Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent.

The establishment, which holds around 70 young people age 13-18 either remand in custody awaiting sentence or convict of offenses, has team up with local adventure education provider Great Leaps and the University of Portsmouth on the pilot project. Up to 32 of the young offenders will be take part in a 16-week program of activities, including archery, caving, orienteering and bush craft, and the University’s research team will assess the project’s success in achieving a number of different positive outcomes.

Sports and physical activity

Dan Luker, Head of Regime at Medway STC, said: “The project is about education, leadership and coaching; the activities are in effect a ‘hook.'” “What they’re looking for is whether, through these activities, young people are able to make positive decisions, can become more self-sufficient, can communicate better, reduce their level of aggression and if they become more compliant with the behavior management system.

“From the Centre’s point of view it is about building better relationships amongst; so young people to engineer a broader community spirit, as well as better relationships between staff and young people.” Jamie McConville, Founder and Managing Director of Great Leaps, added: “None of the young people have had these kinds of opportunities before. With funding in place it’s an ideal chance to look at how we can help; so them change direction in their lives by challenging them, praising, showing empathy and having fun.”

McConville has experience of the criminal justice system in his youth; so before finding his calling as a leader, instructor and coach through the Royal Engineers; hence a homeless charity in London and the teaching profession. “For us it’s about motivating the youngsters and helping them identify skillsets; so that they might not even know they have in terms of taking charge of an activity; listening to and communicating with adults appropriately; also transferring those skills back to their secure setting and post-release,” he added.

Leadership and responsibility

The program follows on from the Sport England-fund Sports Club project; which launch by the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice in Medway and nearby HMP Cookham Wood. Weekly sessions, deliver by Fight For Peace and Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT), consist of coaching in boxing and football, personal development and mentoring. They had what one coach called an “inspiring” effect on young people.

“They are hopeful we will see changes in their behaviors when they are give opportunities; so for leadership and responsibility, and we are keen to see how they respond to being outdoors in this kind of environment. “So they are also keen to see how the plan activities facilitate relationships between the young people. Uniquely, this project will not only assess how young people interact; hence with each other and with custodial staff, but also with education staff; also how they take their experiences and new skills back into the classroom.”

James Mapstone, Chief Executive of the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice, said: “They’re delight to see this project build on the framework; also learning they establish with the Sports Club project in Medway STC. This new project will add more robust evidence for how to use sport and physical activity; so in secure settings most effectively and strengthen our case for sport in criminal justice even further. Academic assessment of the project; which will conclude in December and a final report will be available in the New Year.