Junior is developing a model of peer-led mentoring for people leaving prison, breaking the cycle of re-offending by focussing on the individual and placing them at the heart of his approach. Targetting gang members and repeat offenders specifically, Junior is developing a model that works for those offenders who are traditionally hardest to reach. Southwark Offenders Support (SOS) is an individualised, tailor-made, holistic mentoring programme run by ex-offenders, that works with prisoners at a high risk of re-offending - both before and after their release. Ex-offenders are mentored by other ex-offenders who understand the situations they are in and are in a unique position to offer both emotional and practical support. SOS takes into account the many influences ex-offenders are exposed to on leaving jail, including family, peers, gangs and the local community. The model makes sure these needs are addressed beginning well before the offender is released. In addition, mentors help the ex-offender deal with the many practical challenges they will face on leaving prison, such as finding employment and housing. By taking their place in society as positive role models rather than gang members, there is a ripple out effect from each ex-offender who changes his behaviour. Junior works with clients to help them tackle the stigma of being an ex-offender and gives them opportunities to contribute positively to the community.
Over the 2 years since SOS started, Junior has personally supported 60 clients, fewer than 10% of whom have re-offended (compared to a national average of 55.5% for adults and 75% for young people). To date Junior’s mentoring alone has saved the government an estimated £5.3 million in conviction and incarceration costs. SOS has recently received funding to more than double the size of the project which will see its work extend into two further London boroughs. Junior is currently developing his approach to scaling the SOS model to other areas affected by gang crime.