Young male offenders
Our latest project looks at the root causes connected with youth offending and re-offending in Muslim communities. The project will practically address related social needs, and challenge negative stereotypes which can act as a barrier to opportunity and engagement for these young men.
Offending and reoffending are strongly connected to a number of overlapping and interlinked social needs. This project seeks to address some of these issues, which underline the urgent need for support, access to resources and skills development and activities which resonate with the needs of young people at risk of offending.
Research reveals the following trends:
- Severe social and economic disadvantage
- High rates of unemployment and discrimination – 31% of working age Muslim men are economically inactive
- Misunderstanding & disenfranchisement - a lack of forums for young people to express themselves
- Offenders and rehabilitation: A study published in December 2012 by the chief inspector of prisons and the Youth Justice Board showed that the proportion of young male offenders in Young Offender Institutions who describe themselves as Muslim had risen sharply from 13% in 2009 to 22% in 2011 – 12.
A report by the Muslim Youth Helpline in 2011 has outlined the difficulties faced by Muslim ex-offenders during their resettlement periods. There is a sense of alienation from wider society, a misunderstanding of Islam and Muslims, and a disconnection from the state, establishment and the older generation.
Maslaha has a close relationship with the Mile End Community Project, which works across the local community (inc Bangladeshi & white working class) In a recent focus group, young Muslim men (75% ex-offenders) described the frustration of feeling trapped in a cycle of reoffending, and difficulty in finding a job and new sources of inspiration. However, there was also a strong will to try to change, and an entrepreneurial and creative spirit. This project will foster this spirit, and enable young men to develop new skills and improve their prospects.
More about the project
This project aims to engage young Muslim men from disadvantaged communities in activities which will tackle some of the root causes connected with youth offending and re-offending. The project will practically address related social needs, and challenge negative stereotypes which can act as a barrier to opportunity and engagement for these young men.
Based on an initial literature review, several key themes emerge:
- Social and economic disadvantage: As the data from Census 2001 illustrates, young Muslim men are more likely to come from disadvantaged areas. They are more likely to be socially excluded and experience low levels of participation.
- High rate of unemployment: According to the 2001 census, Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 had high unemployment rates at 28%, and 31% of working-age men were economically inactive. 33% of working-age Muslims in Great Britain had no qualification in 2004 – the highest rate of any group. Studies in France have illustrated how those with Muslim names face massive discrimination when applying for jobs in comparison to those with a Christina first name (who are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to receive a response from a potential employer). Similar studies are currently being performed in the UK and are expected to show similar results.
- Identity: Self-identity is complex and varied, and Muslims in the UK represent a heterogeneous and diverse group in terms of religion, ethnicity, class, culture and family background, and socio-economic status. The process of self-definition has been made more difficult with the pressure from the intense interest and scrutiny since the 2001 riots and 7/7 bombings. Maleeha Aslam has also outlined the particular pressure young Muslim men face as a result of perceptions of masculinity and the pressure to perform in gender normative ways.
- Barriers to civic participation: including perceptions of marginalisation, economic and structural disadvantage, and lack of support, resources and skills for effective participation.
- Misunderstanding and disenfranchisement: There is a lack of forums for young people to express themselves. A majority of young Muslims find Muslim organisations and local leadership largely irrelevant to their concerns. They also feel alienated from UK Government because of domestic and foreign policy, and unfairly represented by the media.
- Offenders and rehabilitation: A study jointly published in December 2012 by the chief inspector of prisons and the Youth Justice Board showed that the proportion of young male offenders in Young Offender Institutions who describe themselves as Muslim had risen sharply from 2009 (13%) to 22% in 2011 – 12. A report by the Muslim Youth Helpline in 2011 has outlined the difficulties faced by Muslim ex-offenders during their resettlement periods.
These are all urgent social needs which underline the need for support, access to resources and skills development, and positive role models and activities which resonate with the needs of young people.
Have a look at allweare.org.uk!
Points from the first focus group:
On how it starts:
‘People are out because they've got nothing to do at home. If you live in a three bedroom house, mum’s watching the TV downstairs, someone else watching TV upstairs. If you’re out all day there’s peer pressure. You want to prove yourself to the people you're having around with. To get yourself out there, get in the hierarchy within your own group of friends. It’s reputation.’
‘Everyone’s got that feeling inside they don’t wanna go to prison. Who wants to go to prison? No one. 75% of our group been in prison.’
‘Now we can’t find a job, people end up lying to their parents saying they’re working, so they need to do something to keep busy, stay out all day. Probably drug dealing, working on the streets to take money home. If you’re not outside and you’re in here (in the youth centre), you can’t do drug dealing or fighting, you’ll probably be doing something more active. Here you’re more safer. Outside, people approach you with a business proposition, you think you can make some money. Here you won’t be feeling that.’
‘You can get a three year guaranteed income from university students (looking for drugs). It’s like you’re your own boss. Where as if you’re working in retail, you gotta get up, get shouted at by the boss everyday. But if that income stops, you’re probably gonna get on something bigger to get something quicker. You’re used to having money; it’s a millionaires life innit.’
On the moment you realise you’re going to be sent to prison:
‘When you’re arrested, you’re just at home. It’s a waiting game. The only way you realise is when you’re in, before that you think yeh I got away, slid through it. As long as you choose the wrong people you’re going to do the wrong things. If you got good people around you you’re gonna be doing good things. This is normal: selling drugs, fighting in gangs. When the police call you trouble that’s when you fight back. Are we supposed to life on benefits for the rest of our lives? Everyone sees these rappers, think how they got rich by selling drugs. He’s just singing about that. People don’t understand he’s just singing about it, he’s probably making millions from one record.’
‘People generally think they’re not gonna get caught. They do it out of boredom, thrill seeking. For the adrenalin rush. There’s a percentage in your head – 50% I ain’t gonna get caught. You’re gonna take the risk to see the outcome, it’s like starting up a business. You don’t know how it’s gonna end up, you take that change. Once you go to prison and come out you realise it’s not worth the risk.’
‘There’s so many different factors why you might end up in prison, there’s never just one reason.’
‘Allow it right, it you been in prison you cause another crime you go back in. It becomes a lifestyle. You probably know more about the law than a lawyer. You know what’s gonna happen when you get caught, and you justify your act.’
‘It starts around age 11 or 12, year 6 or 7, the antisocial behaviour. It starts from the little things. You start bunking from year 7; when you’re younger you see other people doing it, older people. If you were to rewind, I’d go back to school, I’d be a boffin. There were people we’d hang around with, but they’d spare time for education.’
‘You start doing normal thing, playing football. Everyone got bored. In year nine or ten, something crazy, everyone started buying cars. And then it was just one crime after another.’
‘What else was there to do? You were always trying to cause a problem that’s more interesting. You even wanted to get chased by the police. It just gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and you get to know people from other areas.’
‘If you want to make people do a project you’ve got to catch them at a certain stage, or they’ll be like allow this. Around 11 or 12, that’s the age when they transfer from primary to secondary school. You got to preoccupy them with something else. Football training, boxing. A lot of kids these days, they’re on a hustle. My brother wanted me to buy him a phone. I said no, I didn’t have one until I was 14. He started getting these blackberry cases and buying them and selling them until he had enough and he said “I’m buying my own phone”. They’re always selling cookies and sweets in school. For that age it’s good they’re thinking about that already.’
On unemployment and job centres:
‘When you’re older, employment is on everyone’s mind. If you go to a job centre and they put ten people forward for a job, if you’ve got a criinal record 100% you’re not gonna get the job. Everyone’s gonna go back to their old roots, people need money to survive. They sell you a dream – you do six weeks training and all the paperwork and you’re guaranteed to get the job, but it doesn’t work. I’ve done so much training. We were doing some construction course, and we didn’t even get it cos the guy got done for fraud. If they get their name on a paper for training they’ll get money for it. But I don’t think it’s their fault, the system don’t work, they got too many people to help out.’
‘You need genuine people that really want to help someone. Sometimes you go, and there are people behind the desk that don’t really help. This one woman who really cared at probation, she really helped me. If I didn’t call her she’d call me. And she’d call up the person and explain my situation. This guy saw I needed a break.’
On role models:
There’s one guy in our family (group) – he was always going home, doing his work. He had time for us, and he had time for himself, his family. He got into Queen Mary with a first, and now he’s working for City Group. He’s cool still though. Out of all of us he’s done well. He’s his own person, he’s a smart guy. We knew him from a young age, we grew up together, we knew what he done. There was an organisation that used to bring people down here, social entrepreneurs. It was all good, but there’s no connection. The majority of the time it has to be someone you know.’
‘When you get advice, it’s better to go and meet someone you know. Localising.’
‘I got so many ideas but I wouldn’t know how to put them into a plan. Young people don’t know who to turn to. People might know about stuff like the Princes Trust, but they don’t know what it does, they think it’s for youth clubs. When they have training day events they should have people saying “have you thought about starting your own business?” rather than just signing for training.’
‘We all got ideas and ambition to try to do something. But we’re getting tired, losing motivation.’