Violent young offenders to get healthy eating and sport tips under controversial ‘wellbeing’ plan to cut reoffending
VIOLENT young offenders are to get tips on healthy eating in a controversial ‘wellbeing’ plan from the Ministry of Justice.
Ministers yesterday rubber stamped a Prisons in Sport programme which will also see Premier League clubs such as Manchester United supporting education programmes to cut reoffending.
The plan will formally axe madcap proposals to teach young lags kung fu and other martial arts – revealed by The Sun in June.
The idea was pushed by ex-Justice Minister Philip Lee before he quit earlier this summer over Brexit.
But it risks sparking fresh accusations the Government is ‘going soft’.
Britain’s jails are plagued by record levels of violence fuelled by drug abuse and the spread of psychoactive substances.
Under the plans, young offenders will be given tips on “healthy living and lifestyles” as they enter establishments.
And prison menus and canteen sheets will be giving “young people informed choices” about the fat, sugar and salt they consume.
Justice Minister Edward Argar said a review had proved that sport and wellbeing could have a “positive impact on rehabilitation”.
Why I want young offenders to get wellbeing tips
By Justice Minister Edward Argar MP
FROM Georgia Hall’s stunning victory in the British Open last weekend, to Geraint Thomas’ triumph in the Tour de France, and England’s penalty shoot-out heroics in the World Cup – 2018 has been another big year for British sport.
Those achievements encourage people to get involved in sport themselves. That’s good for our health but it can also be good for our mentality.
Elite sportsmen and women share a common trait – extreme discipline. But being involved in sport at any level requires discipline.
For young offenders, getting involved in sport can have a massive impact on their lives. It can help them recognise skills they never knew they had – like leadership, teamwork, communication – and realise, perhaps for the first time, that they are talented people.
These young people have often had difficult lives. Grasping new skills can give them the confidence to re-think their futures and the role that education could play in helping them to get on in life.
Many of the sports programmes available at Young Offenders’ Institutions are organised by local sports clubs like Leeds Rhinos and Fulham FC. Their involvement gives offenders the opportunity to access positive role-models and work towards sporting qualifications of their own.
Whether or not they choose to pursue sport or coaching, the skills they learn make them more employable for the future. That gives them the best possible chance to turn their backs on crime for good.
That’s why the government and my predecessor asked Professor Rosie Meek to carry out a review of sport and physical activity in custody – so that we can make better use it to turn these young lives around.
We can do that by giving them something to work towards during their time inside and a new self-image with the possibilities of a bright future.
We might just discover a superstar. Even if we don’t, we will be going some way towards making sure young offenders gain the discipline and skills they need to become hardworking, successful adults.
The Sun revealed Philip Lee’s call for kung fu call lessons two months ago – and the move was immediately branded a ‘martial farce’.
The Minister quit over Brexit at the start of the summer.
Tory party chairman Brandon Lewis then savaged his idea in a damning letter that was circulated around the Whitehall.
Speaking last night, Mr Lee accused the Government of “cowardice”.
He said: “I am disappointed, not for myself but for the hundreds of lives that could have been turned around by this scheme.
“Unfortunately a further example of the government by cowardice I have spoken about before, which looks no further than tomorrow’s newspaper headlines.”
Edward Argar last night insisted the Government’s move to offer structured PE activities would teach offenders self-discipline, team work and leadership.
The Leeds Rhinos rugby club provide training sessions at HMP Wetherby.
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Saracens offer coaching qualifications at Feltham young offenders’ institute.
The Government commissioned a review by Professor Rosie Meek into “best practice” and how sport can play a role in reoffending.
Mr Argar said: “We know that sport on its own does not provide all the answers, but it is a central pillar for helping young offenders to build skills which will ultimately reducing reoffending and help them to turn their backs on crime for good.”