Gang members: hidden victims?…

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ monkeybusinessimages

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ monkeybusinessimages

Gangs are a bit scary. Kids in gangs certainly don’t look like victims.

In fact the word “gang” itself evokes images of violent young people, up to no good and creating victims of crime.

We know there’s more to it than that.

For instance gang members have higher than normal rates of mental health issues. But new research suggests that gang-affiliated young people may have a lot more to lose than their mental health.

The hidden victims in gangs…

Continue Reading »

In prison and in distress…

Image - girl worries

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/VeryOlive

Custody is a tough place to be. I guess some sections of the public may think that’s a good thing.

After all, prison is about punishment, right? Mmm.

A recent inspection report into Eastwood Park prison near Bristol highlighted the issue of self-harm.

So may be we should “listen” to the behaviour of those in custody before we make that judgment…

What behaviour tells us…

Continue Reading »

Gang membership & mental health…

“It’s a thug’s life!”

So said one of the lads I worked with in youth justice, when I asked about the violence he’d seen, suffered and taken part in.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Aestusx

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/Aestusx

Gang membership was part of the problem. We spent the next two years working to help him through it.

A recent study from Queen Mary, University of London has shown unprecedented levels of psychiatric illness among young men in gangs.

Here’s what they found…

Continue Reading »


Looking after no. 1...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/cokacoka

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/cokacoka

I’ve recently had a couple of days off and I’m still tired.

May be it’s the late nights or the chocolate-filled days. May be it’s just being 50 years old!

Or may be some of it is due to the impact of working with troubled young people for 20 odd years – it can certainly takes its toll.

Once again I’m looking in the mirror asking, “do I look after myself enough?”

Do you?

How you could look after yourself better (& a bit about why)…

Continue Reading »

Youth suicide: risk & protective factors…

Current suicide rates for the 15-24 age group is currently running at around 8% in the UK (per 100,000).

Grave stone  koya79 - iStock_000018339157XSmall

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/koya79

In 2011 (latest figures) The Samaritans took over 600,000 calls from people expressing suicidal feelings.

Not wishing to alarm anyone, but I’ve been there myself. It’s horrible. And terrifying. And, worst of all, it’s lonely.

Those of us who work with troubled young people need to know what we’re looking for, so that we can help. It could be a life or death issue…

Risk factors you should know about…

Continue Reading »

Self-harm 1: 2400 kids can’t be wrong…

Talking self-harm

I’ve long since lost count of the number of young people I’ve encountered who harm themselves deliberately.

Lots of kids self-harm. Research suggests as many as 1 in 12.

It’s something you remain acutely concerned about, but begin to think of differently after a while. Not that you get used to it; you don’t. But you get to know it; to understand it better.

Most important of all, you learn to deal with it sensitively and sensibly. In other words, you empathise with the child, whilst taking the risks seriously.

So what do we know about kids who self-harm?

Continue Reading »

The Developing Mind…

The Developing Mind

The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (second edition), by Daniel Seigel, ISBN-13: 978-1462503902

A number of years ago, I had the pleasure of attending the National Adolescent Perpetration Network (NAPN) conference in Portland, Oregon. There I bought this book!

I first met Kevin Creeden at a NOTA conference in Cardiff. During that event, he gave a keynote address all about the neuro-developmental impact of childhood trauma. In the interim period since we met, I had started something of an obsession about reading everything I could lay my hands, in order to try and build on the material Kevin had shared.

During one of our conversations following his original address, I had asked him what was the one book he would recommend for someone new to the subject, but keen to dig deeper. Without hesitation he recommended The Developing Mind by Daniel Seigel. Browsing the book stall at the NAPN conference, I saw the book and immediately bought it.

Continue Reading »

A Gaping HOLE in the WHOLE System Approach…?


As anticipated in my previous post, the make up of the new Criminal Justice Board (CJB) is missing vital ingredients – anyone speaking for offender needs and perspectives.

After well over 20 years of working with young offenders, it’s clear to me that whilst some seem to be “hardened” and resistant to change, many would welcome more help to turn things around, put things right and get on track towards a crime-free life.

Even a cursory read of the various aims and mission statements of the organisations sitting on the CRB would reveal that their aims are exactly the same – to reduce offending, particularly re-offending.  So we’re all agreed: less crime is a good thing.

Continue Reading »

New Criminal Justice Board – Inaugural Meeting…


I’ve just received my usual daily update from the MoJ ( a great service, by the way!) and read the news of the inaugural meeting of the Criminal Justice Board (CJB).

On reading the aims of the Board, my initial reaction was that, despite the usually tiresome language of government based announcements, the focus of the Board sounded quite noble.  Then I looked again, the Board aims to ensure that the Criminal Justice System (CJS)…

  • reduces crime
  • reduces re-offending
  • punishes offenders
  • protects the public
  • makes reparation
  • improves public confidence and
  • ensures that the system is fair and just

As I said, all very noble – at least on the face of it. No mention of meeting the needs of offenders though.  No concern for mediating previous injustices, or ensuring proportionality in sentencing, or promoting the development of increasingly safe custodial settings, or redressing the fact that disproportionately higher numbers of poor people, black people and those with mental health problems find themselves in custody… I could go on.

Continue Reading »