Persistent offender sees value of rehabilitation

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Indy Politics
'SIMON' started his criminal career at eight when he burgled a neighbour's house and broke into a local school, writes Heather Mills.

Now 18, his litany of offences would cover pages. He is now in Feltham Young Offenders Unit, for knifing someone in a pub fight.

He comes from a broken home, has been in care from the age of nine and has known little of life outside institutions. He is one of the 'persistent young offenders' identified by yesterday's report and he endorsed the MPs' call for a national agency to take responsibility for his custody and rehabilitation.

He says that had a programme to tackle his behavioural problems been available when he started offending, he may have broken the cycle. Instead, he has been subject to every chance or penalty available within the criminal justice system, from cautioning to imprisonment. 'I knew right from wrong. But somehow you remove yourself from what you are doing.'

Simon is now receiving intensive therapy and training at Feltham. 'Barriers between staff and inmates are broken down. They take you back to your earliest problems. There is lots of support. I'm taking a diploma in social studies and I am allowed out to do support work at a local day centre,' he said.

'I'm not going to offend any more. I have caused a lot of people harm . . . But now I am helping others.'