PRISON has taught Sheffield lads a lesson they want to pass on to other young people – to help steer them away from crime.
Ahmed Warseme and Fuad Assan live in Broomhall, an area which has witnessed gang violence between rival factions.
But they turned their lives around with help from Unity Gym, on Eldon Street, Sheffield. Staff and volunteers at the gym help reformed offenders get back on their feet and work with the police and schools – with ex-convicts visiting classes to talk about the pitfalls of crime.
The work takes place alongside South Yorkshire Police’s gang prevention campaign, which has helped lead to a drop in serious crime involving young people after a spate of ‘postcode gang’ murders.
The fall in such incidents is part of the reason for Sheffield’s new status as England’s safest large city.
Ahmed, aged 24, served time in prison for possession of a handgun and assault. He said he got into a life of crime following problems at school and ‘nothing to do’ in his area. He said: “Prison is horrible. Being away from your family, and seeing how what you have done affects them, is really hard.
“But going to Unity Gym and the opportunities and support it gives you makes me determined to do good.
“I want youngsters to learn from the mistakes I made. If there is one message I could give to young people it would be stick to your education. If you don’t, you could fall into a vicious circle like I did.”
Fuad, 19, was sent to prison for 18 months for drug offences. He was also expelled from school which left him getting into trouble on the streets.
“My message to young people is getting into drugs is not worth the trouble,” he said.
Another youth, who was sent to prison for a short time for violence – despite having earlier done well at school and starting attending university – added: “Where I grew up there was always a temptation to get into trouble and, even though I did get a place at university, trouble seemed to follow me.
“Before I knew it I was expelled from my course and in prison.
“My aim now is to become a football coach and I am working hard on it with Unity. I never want to get in trouble again.”