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…

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Troubled youth: re-writing the ending…

Once upon a time...

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/CharlieAJA

One of the highlights of my week is watching a film with my son on the weekend. It’s great!

But every now and again, it isn’t. The film is predictable – we know what’s likely to happen next and can guess the end.

It struck me recently that working with troubled young people can be similar to this. But in a good way – we have a chance to change the ending, to make it unpredictable.

Many people (the press, Joe Public) respond to them by assuming that the end is set in stone. That these kids are destined to fail.

But it doesn’t have to be like that…

Re-writing the ending…

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Crime & Punishment 3

"Give a Damn!"

Rigid Bar Handcuffs

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/GTMedia

Here it is: 3 out of 3…

1.  This series of 3 started with exploring why people get so mad about youth crime. Why they call for more punishment.

2.  In my last post, we looked at some of the background drivers to offending. Essentially the ingredients of a really bad start in life.

3. This post starts to identify what workers and systems need to do if they are to help young people stop offending.

So what needs to happen?

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Gangs: advice for parents & carers…

GangsThe government has issued a new advice leaflet for parents and carers.

The 12 page document is called, “Advice for Parents & Carers on Gangs: Helping Young People Make the Right Choice.”

The following are the main headings covered:

  • Why do young people join gangs?
  • Signs to look out for
  • It’s not just the boys
  • What can you do?
  • What if your child is already involved?
  • What the law says
  • Useful contacts

In my view this is a very worthwhile leaflet to read. It breaks down the issues very well, offers practical advice and access to other useful resources.

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Crime & Punishment 2

Cause & Effect...

Offender by wall - Linda Yolanda - iStock_000007765018XSmall

The theme of my last post on youth crime was Punishment isn’t enough…. We explored why it is that people often cry out for more punishment.

It was a call for us all to remember what it was like being young. Most of all, it was a reminder that judgment kills trust. If kids don’t trust us, we can’t help them.

If not more punishment, then what?

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Crime & Punishment 1

Why Punishment Isn't Enough...

Offender - iStock_000007572083XSmall Chris Hepburn

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/ChrisHepburn

I’ve heard it a thousand times, “If it was up to me, I’d throw away the key.

Young people who commit crime are a real public nuisance. Few would dispute this. Knowing offenders get punished is somehow satisfying.

Maybe it’s knowing that there really is some justice in the world. Maybe it’s the warm glow of knowing that the kid did something wrong and now they’re getting their comeuppance.

But many believe that we don’t punish enough. We’re “too easy on them.”

Here’s the kinds of things people say:

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Editorial – Journal of Sexual Agression, March 2012


Journal of Sexual Aggression


© Taylor & Francis

Special Issue – Children & Young People Who Display Harmful Sexual Behaviour


This special issue sprang from a conversation with editor, Sarah Brown, during NOTA conference some 3 or 4 years ago.  One of my fellow editors, Kevin Creeden, had presented on the neurological impact of trauma and the effects of this on young people’s functioning and behaviour generally, and on their sexual behaviour in particular.  My other co-editor, Dawn Fisher, and I had also been discussing innovative treatments involving mindfulness and bio-feedback techniques, among others.  These emerging issues illustrate the pace at which the child and adolescent harmful sexual behaviour field is developing.  Altogether, the time seemed ripe for an issue exploring current thinking and research relating to this group of younger people – so here it is!

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Identifying & Treating Youth Who Sexually Offend

Identifying & Treating Youth Who Sexually Offend


Book review…

By Jonny Matthew

This review was originally published in the Journal of Sexual Aggression – the journal of The National Organisation for the Treatment of Abusers (NOTA)

Identifying and Treating Youth Who Sexually Offend: Current Approaches, Techniques and Research Edited by Robert Geffner, Kristina Crumpton Franey, Teri Geffner Arnold, Robert Falconer. 2204. pp. xxi + 317. ISBN 0 7890 2787 9.

Those searching for a reference source which addresses the principal area of ‘adolescents who sexually offend’, from both a clinical and research perspective, need look no further.

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MoJ Green Paper Consultation – Transforming Youth Custody…

Green paper

The Ministry of Justice has announced its intention to change the thrust of the secure estate to concentrate much more on education.  It has published a Green Paper, “Transforming Youth Custody”, laying out its plans.  The consultation exercise is seeking views on how best to implement the proposals; it closes on the 30 April 2013. Click the logo above for the paper& consultation document.

© Jonny Matthew 2013

Youth Justice Statistics for 2011-12 published…


The Youth Justice Board, Home Office and Ministry of Justice have now published the Youth Justice statistical returns for the last 12 month period.

These are available for all to view.  The executive summary is here, though the full text is also free to view here. There are a number of other documents, including the tables to go with the stats report, as well as a glossary.  The figures for the previous four years are also there for comparative purposes – all accessible on the Ministry of Justice website, here.

© Jonny Matthew 2013

Wales Youth Justice Facts…

WAG Green Paper

The responses to the Welsh Assembly Government Green Paper on improving youth justice services for young people in Wales were submitted on the 11th December 2012.

My own view is that this should take a more overtly welfare and treatment-related approach.

Children and young people don’t usually offend, and certainly not prolifically, if they’ve had a stable and caring upbringing. We can assume, therefore, that these children (and children they are!) have not had the usual advantages that divert the majority from crime. Thus, if we are to help them to recover and apply the interventions necessary to avert re-offending, we must target the developmental factors that fuel aberrant behaviour.

I have posted my own response to the green paper, separately here. This outlines specific proposals to strengthen youth justice interventions, orientate services on a more welfare/developmental footing and base all work around fuller, more clinical assessments.

In addition, I have decided to post on Twitter (@JonnyMatthew) a series of data posts. These are data bites about a cohort of 303 Welsh young people who offended prolifically; this means they committed more than 25 offences. The facts are taken from Annex A of the green paper – based on a study undertaken by the Welsh Division of the Youth Justice Board. My hope is that these will help to emphasise the imperative for a more needs-based, multi-agency approach…

© Jonny Matthew 2013