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Relocated young gang members are at greater risk of re-offending

Recent research found that young gang members who were relocated were particularly vulnerable to feelings of isolation and more prone to drifting back into criminal activity.

Some gang intervention programmes involve whole family relocation and this can create stress because family members are required to leave their local community networks, education and employment. The Beyond Youth Custody report says that some young people believe such drastic changes set the bar too high.

It adds: "Difficulties also arise if the young person drifts back to their neighbourhood of origin because of feelings of loneliness and isolation, thus putting themselves at risk, or, conversely they settle into their new area and set up an outpost that enables their old gang to expand its drug-dealing territory."

They are asking for better planning for young offenders on release stating that relocation needs to better reflect the cultural needs of the young person and pay closer attention to recognising “the removal of the young person from friends and family will be emotionally difficult”.

They also found a lack of consistency in support across custody and the community. They saw that many young people wanting to leave gangs were cut off from contact with community youth workers and mentors when placed in custody.

There was also a lack of understanding among support services about the trauma former gang member’s face in dealing with serious violence they may have committed or witnessed. 

They want areas to consider the use of mentors, suggesting that this also needs to improve stating  “Agencies need to recognise that mentors can be drawn from the whole of society and that an ex-gang-affiliated mentor does not always make the best fit for a gang-involved young person leaving custody.” 

Nacro head of policy, Sally Benton said: “There has been a worrying lack of attention into what happens when gang-involved young people are released into the community after spending time in custody. 

“If we are going to effectively resettle young people back into society then we have to get better at understanding what is required when people leave custody. We have to think differently about the services and support people need and how they are delivered.”

See the full report here.