Give ‘Em Life

Give ‘em life.

Its easy aint it. For us to pass judgment on the things that other people do. “Oh I would never do that”…. “How can they do that”.  We all play judge and jury in our mind, weather you are happy to admit that or not.

Give Em life

“Lock them up and throw away the key”

“Feral thugs”

“I blame the parents”

When a child or young person is arrested or convicted of a violent crime, these are the kind of comments that are said by many people … to each other, to  a wider audience, on social media. I get it. If its your loved one that has been hurt, then of course the emotions would be running high. If someone hurt my loved ones I would be angry and I would want them punished.

But what if it was, for example,  my loved one that was holding the knife. What about all the other people and factors involved when youth violence takes place. And when we are talking about children and young people involved in such things, should we the adults be screaming and cussing at them. About them. Are we not showing them the exact emotion we are punishing them for….aggression….hate.

I hear so many comments about not knowing the real story. Not knowing the facts.

But what if you did. What if someone knew so many angles and elements of some of the people involved in a crime that they were able to see things from a bigger picture. Imagine a scenario, if you will, where a single person knew of the initial victim, the perpetrator, the families, the friends and even people involved in the conflict. It would be mad wouldn’t it. To see a crime from all those angles. To have some kind of relationship with so many people involved in a crime.

There was this boy. He was born into mental health, drugs and neglect. This is no sob story. No. This is just a story . So this boy is born into a life that was always going to have an adverse impact on many elements of his life. In fact, it would be a miracle if he grew up a fully function member of society. When you are born into a family with mental health it is hard to know what is ok and what is not. Of course you know stabbing someone is wrong. This is not that kind of story where we say its ok to pick up a knife. It’s never ok. But until you have been born into a family where mental health is an issue, you really will never know.

For me personally, being born into mental health meant that I struggled to understand what was expected of me from the people around me. I didn’t get reactions from people that were “Normal” and I struggled to find my footing.

Anyway…back to the boy. Born into a situation that he had no control of. Parents with mental health. Siblings with mental health. Drugs controlling people within that unit.

We could talk about the parents. About what they were brining to the table. The issues surrounding them and the things they may have had to face in life that led to certain situations. The failings that may have taken place. Or not.

But we are here to talk about the boy

He grows in a neglectful household. I mean he will never see it like that. He knows no better or worse. It is what it is. One of his parents may be fully functioning, going to work , trying their best. The other parent may be the issue.

When the boy starts school, I would have liked to think That his neglect and SEN was raised quickly. That support was put in place. But it was not. He will go through primary school feeling stupid and not good enough. He will go through primary never knowing why he says or does certain things. Why he can’t go up a reading band at school, Why he is left out of certain games. His behaviour will be noticed though. Oh yes. The whole safeguarding  team will miss/ignore all the tell-tale signs that he and his family are in crisis and his SEN will not be picked up “Because of his behaviour”. That’s not me being unkind. That’s a stone-cold fact. He was not correctly safeguarded by the professionals around him and his needs were not meet by a single adult in his life up until year 6. Some tried. In their own ways. But they didn’t try hard enough. In my personal opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of times that this kind of stuff takes place and the child does not go on to commit crimes or hurt people.

But we are not talking about any other child right now. We are talking about the boy.

So he goes to secondary school. He will be placed in the lowest set and the primary school will not hand over any concerns around SEN. However, the secondary school…they will pick up on it…wont they…I mean…we can’t be living in a world where  and children are coming into year 7 and can’t read and no one says anything. That would be madness. That would be neglectful.

That’s happening to thousands of children every year. Thousands of children not being assessed and receiving the support they need to make it in life. However, …every child who has undiagnosed SEN goes on to be involved with crime. That’s true.

But we are talking about this boy.

By the time the boy hits year 9, His siblings are involved in drug dealing and crime. As are his sibling’s friends. And their friends. You get the picture. The boy, he does not have much. None of them do. So when he realises that being involved in selling drugs will give him not just money, but a sense of belonging to the group that he wants to be part of…and also gain him some respect…he “Chooses” that life.

I say chose. If I was 13 and I was out here fending for myself and my siblings had already been dragged into stuff….I don’t know what I would “choose”. I mean, the adults around him are not keeping him safe. He does not live in an area that will keep him safe. School want rid of him because he is so naughty.

However… not every young person living like this will go on to be in prison. They will just develop resilience and do something else with their life.

But I am talking about this child.

Have you ever had to live with a disability or pain that no one could see. Like, Sometimes my IBS is so bad that I feel like I could be sick at any moment. It’s a consent fulness in my stomach some days and today, for example , it was bad. I just can’t concentrate. I also have ADHD which is worse when I am tried. Some days I struggle to think straight.

Imagine that ….but you had no idea what was going on.

That’s what it is like for this boy. Because his SEN needs are undiagnosed and also unsupported, he has no self-awareness how to regulate himself at times. He has no coping mechanisms  other than the ones he has created for himself. A referral did go in once for the boy. I know it did. I know every word that was written on that referral. But due to many reasons, by the time it had got anywhere the boy had already  left education and totally disengaged with professionals.

He starts to smoke weed. I can’t tell you why or how. I have never had that conversation with him so who am I to chat. But there was definitely a change when he started to smoke. So I hear. In this story. The police picked him up several time for possession I know for a fact that he was not asked at any time how he was paying for the weed. The boy struggled to  retain information. Had learnt to nod in the right places and such but, just like his brother, it was clear there was a need. But as I said….only a hand full of adults ever tried to address that or support it.

He started to carry a knife. For protection. I wonder if he ever really knew who he was protecting himself from.

And if you carry a knife you obviously  run the risk of hurting yourself or others. It doesn’t always turn out like that. Some people carry a knife and never get caught. Some people carry a knife, hurt people and nothing happens. Some people.

But I am talking about this boy.

And so it happened… he stabbed someone.  A peer. I could go into it. But for what reason. To make good reading. An argument escalated and he stabbed someone. I don’t condone his actions in any way. He is guilty of his crime.

I wonder how much he fully understood when they arrested him. I wonder…after he was separated from his people….how long until he cried. I reckon about night 3. Maybe. I wonder if he fully understood the consequences of his actions. I wonder if he has developed or been taught all the thought processes that children gain growing up that would allow him to reflect on what he had done.

Sentencing.

Give him 10 years? Lock him up and throw away the key?

I wonder, when he stood trial, if he understood that he would not be coming home for a long time.

Sentencing.

Imagine if people in the jury had been directly affected by the crime this child had committed.  Imagine the emotion that would go into the decision of the childes sentencing if people in the jury had children who had been directly affected by youth violence. And it was known. It was known that people on the jury were in that position . Surely they would not place such people on the jury to sentence ….that would be unethical….but just imagine that for this boy…that did happen.

Imagine that no one raised that this boy had no appropriate adult during, and through out his arrest. Despite it being clear in sentencing that he did not fully understand what was being said to him. Imagine that.

Should he go to prison? Yes. Yes he should. It has made me very emotional to wright that but it’s the truth.

However, he should be going to prison and be part of a rehabilitation programme. Wouldn’t that be the right thing to do. Get his SEN assessed and supported. Get him some GCSEs and qualifications  so when he comes out he has half a chance of getting a job of some kind. He needs some work around consequences. He needs to be taught life skills.

No…you don’t think he should? Why should he go to prison and get any of that . He stabs someone and gets an education and support! What kind of punishment is that!

I can hear people thinking it…. And just so you know…. Your part of the problem.

But will he get that? If the answer is no… then I am not sure what chance our children and young people have when they are placed in the judicial system

Its very easy for people to pass judgment. To say what is and is not OK. Maybe we need to look at why we think its OK to make comments like that. Even to ourselves.

Any child that ends up within the criminal system is a failing. And part of that failing includes the adults around them.  

This boy…in the story…he was failed. And he committed a crime. And he is being punished.

The person he harmed is also doing a sentence. A life sentence of trauma. They are being punished.

All the people that care and love the victim of the crime, they are being punched. They are watching their loved one go through the trauma.

All the people that love and care for the boy who committed the crime, they are doing a sentence. Watching their loved one in prison, hoping he will make it out…wondering what he will make of his life when he comes out.

To give you context…. I could apply that above story to several children I have worked with and it would fit perfectly. SO maybe the question is….why do the protecting adults keep missing the signs and are we even capable of safeguarding children that are exposed and involved in youth crime. I guess that’s something to consider.

For me…. The boy in this story… I have hugged him. I have breathed him in. I know him.

So many people lose when a child commits a violent crime. But comments like “give ‘em life” are part of the problem.

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