Confronting troubled young people with offenders is one thing, but hearing their harrowing stories in a mock prison cell is believed to drive the message home.
That’s why charity In2Change built the facility at its Neepsend premises which are put to use by ex-offenders turned trainers Hanif Mohammed, who served 10 years for killing a man, and Karen Howell-Ball, aged 41, who was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to supply drugs.
Hanif said: “I never thought I would ever use something as negative and life-defining as my crime in such a positive way. Without the support and opportunities I have been given by In2Change I would have been homeless, unemployed and at greater risk of re-offending
“Some of the kids think that being a criminal and a gangster is glamorous – but we show them that it’s not. We tell them about the hardship, about the crying at night; I never cried in my life till I went to prison. We make them realise that what they are living is not a computer game; it’s real life and has serious consequences.”
The mock prison, which includes a kitchen, was built with £1,500 from UK Steel Enterprise and £2,000 from the Police Proceeds of Crime Fund.
Keith Williams, regional manager for UK Steel Enterprise said: “The aim of our charitable fund is to support community groups which are dealing with difficult regeneration or social issues, particularly those facing the young.
“In2Change is doing some amazing work on a shoestring, with some of the hardest to reach young people in our society from some of our most deprived communities, bringing them back on track.
“I don’t know of many other projects like this in the UK and we are delighted to be supporting it with our funding.”