Britain’s criminal system is characterized by prolific re-offending, with nearly fifty-six percent of adult offenders and seventy-five percent of young offenders committing a crime within two years of leaving prison. In deprived areas of London, increased violence, theft, and drug use have contributed to the rise of crime among young people. To address these problems, Junior Smart has developed an ex-prisoner led peer mentoring system, called Southwark Offenders Support (SOS), which provides services to current prisoners to address the broad array of problems they face in prison, immediately before release, and as they integrate back into society.
SOS takes many influences ex-offenders are exposed to on leaving jail, including family, peers, gangs and the local community into account. Most of all, Smart understands the system from the point of view of a service user. Since SOS is ex-offender led and uses ex-offenders as staff and volunteers, trained and committed mentors are in the position to build unique relationships with clients and have a lasting impact on their lives. The mentoring system ensures that the service provided is customized to an individual’s challenges. SOS challenges the entire existing model for provision of services to those in and leaving prison. Among the massive social and financial benefits of Junior’s program is the reduction in rates of re-offending to only ten percent. By reducing this trend, the aim of Junior Smart’s project is stopping the cycle that keeps communities trapped by crime. After being sentenced to ten years in prison himself, he resolved that he would help others in the same situation.
Web site: http://www.sosproject.org.uk/