180 kids sent to ‘jail’ in Potters Bar
PUBLISHED: 17:25 12 October 2011
SCORES of youngsters at risk of being excluded from school or on the brink of offending got a short, sharp shock last week when they were frog-marched off to jail for the day.
The 180 children and teens from Potters Bar’s Mount Grace School, and other schools in Hertsmere, were ‘treated’ to the ‘unique’ event, at the Wyllyotts Centre, to educate them about the consequences of their behaviour.
They got a taste of prison life at the initiative organised by Hertfordshire Constabulary with the national educational charity Prison Me, No Way! Project.
Hertsmere Chief Inspector Sue Jameson said: “In light of the recent civil unrest in London and anti-social behaviour in Hertsmere, we thought it was an opportune time to make young people understand that if they carry on being disruptive at school or behaving anti-socially, they are limiting themselves from having a fulfilling life, opposed to possibly wasting it in prison.”
During the day the 11 to 16- year-olds were separated from their peers and escorted from workshop to workshop as ‘real’ prisoners to make the initiative authentic.
They were told to turn off their mobile phones, and those who didn’t had to, after their numbers were flashed on a large screen.
They were escorted to a virtual prison cell, in a van, where they were told that prisoners shared with another person in the confined space.
The girls were shocked there was no privacy when going to the toilet and that female prisoners had to wash their dirty underwear in the same sink as brushing their teeth.
Most of the groups were surprised that people spent 19 hours a day in such a small space.
They also met two real-life prisoners – each serving life for murder.
They learned their way of life was very difficult and that the ‘hard men’ had lost everything, including their partners and children.
Pc Ross Paybody, who organised the scheme, said: “We wanted to find a way of getting through to young people causing problems at school or getting into trouble with the police, so we could stop them making bad decisions that impact on the rest of their lives.”
Cllr John Donne, community safety portfolio holder, added: “The idea behind this initiative is to try to get the young people to think about their behaviour and the impact it has on other people.
“Hopefully the experience will open their eyes to what could happen if they continue on the path that they’re on and motivate them to take some responsibility, before it’s too late.”
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