Youngsters will be taught a harsh lesson about the consequences of crime at a new centre in Sheffield.
A mock prison cell is set to help encourage young people in South Yorkshire to stay on the straight and narrow at charity In2Change’s headquarters.
The Neepsend centre, which has just opened and will allow the charity to extend its services to more people, aims to drill the ‘crime doesn’t pay’ message home to excluded schoolchildren and others deemed at-risk of offending.
Brian Wreakes, service manager at In2Change, said: “We show them what it’s like when you get sent to prison for the first time. It’s a powerful deterrent. No one else does what we do.
“We also show them scenarios where crime is committed - anti-social behaviour and domestic abuse.
“Youths are referred to us by the police, schools, youth offending and other outside organisations. They come for an intense day of education.
“All our staff are ex-offenders or serving prisoners.”
Ex-offenders take part in role play portraying the consequences of crime and prison life as learnt by those that have been there.
Among those are Hanif Mohammed, aged 30, who served 10 years in jail for killing a man, and Karen Howell-Ball, 41, who was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to supply drugs.
Brian said: “We work with young people that are on the edge of opting out of society; their vision of the future is bleak and often coloured with glamorous ideas about gangster life.
“It’s vital that we re-engage them in education and life skills.
“The results of our project are amazing. We have one young man who has not been to school for the past three years and whilst with us he has only missed three days in all that time.”
The project was granted £1,500 from UK Steel Enterprise’s Charitable Fund and £2,000 from the Police Proceeds of Crime Fund for the new centre.
Keith Williams, regional executive for UK Steel Enterprise said: “The aim of our charitable fund is to support local 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 our most deprived communities, bringing them back on track.”