For young people, a criminal conviction is often presented as a life wasted. Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a criminal record can place tangible, and immovable barriers in the way of the integration of ex-offenders. A large part of that is down to the social stigma attached to criminal offending, the negative stereotypes, and the labels that society places on these individuals. In the court of public opinion, a criminal history is something that marks you out as dangerous, hopeless and beyond repair. They are viewed with extreme suspicion, and as a result, cannot access the privileges granted to those deemed to be full members of society. Leaving prison represents the end of the first stage of punishment. For many, a life of social and economic exclusion is all that lies on the other side of the prison gate.
Climb Over (CO) is an Erasmus+ funded project aimed at increasing public awareness of issues faced by young people with criminal convictions, reintegrating them into the community, and ultimately reducing reoffending. A staff training event was held over five days that brought together 15 participants from three different countries (Lithuania, Croatia and UK). The aim was to pool together the various skills, experiences and competencies of youth workers, NGO representatives and academics in order to develop new methods to promote the reintegration of young people with convictions by involving them in youth work.
The event took place between 2nd-6th February 2019 in Kaunas, Lithuania, in the heart of the old town. To begin, teams from each participating country presented their findings from research into young people and youth workers on integration of young offenders. These findings informed the design and development of strategic pillars for CO’s pilot programme.
The project climb over was a good experience for students as much as for professionals. The main aim was to absorb knowledge from every participant and try to use it in our everyday work with youngsters. - Lorena
With a focus on developing ways to overcome stereotypes and labelling, participants took part in various group exercises. These included a visit to Lithuania’s only young offender remand prison, brainstorming sessions, role play and forum theatre, as well as an inspirational talk from a guest speaker.
Climb Over is about inclusion, I think that's poignant topic right now. - Dami
Participants left with a renewed sense of purpose, a clearer understanding of the factors that lead to young people getting caught up in the criminal justice system, and practical measures to address the issue of reintegration. The overarching aim of the event was to come away with solid ideas of how to involve young (ex)offenders in youth work. Over the summer of 2019 each participating country will hold 10 separate events that seek to facilitate reintegration using the findings of their research, and the following methodologies that they developed together to guide them.
"I learnt a lot of exercises that I am going to take back and use with my kids from the youth club, which I know will have a positive impact on them because it had a positive impact on me." - Kosi
For more details about coming events in Croatia you can contact us: email@example.com