Desistance. Resilience. Resettlement. Three simple words that are often hard to achieve. We know that many offenders are incarcerated due to the serious, often persistent nature of their crimes, many which have involved forms of violence. A large body of evidence shows that many offenders and perpetrators of violence, who are not psychotic or mentally ill, have themselves been victimised - often as children - through abuse, bullying or neglect (family, educational, social and/or economic). Many are still caught in a cycle of violence where they are both victim and perpetrator on any given day: in the home, on the street, with their peers.
While a prison sentence is used to addresses their perpetration and rehabilitation programmes try to address their offending behaviour, few interventions dig deep to addresses their experience of victimhood and perpetration and the link between these factors. Few programmes really focus on sustainable behaviour change or enhanced coping mechanisms and then use pro-social modelling and support from a mentor.
The learning we have gained over the last 4 years, substantially enhanced by the incorporation of Milestones within the Khulisa family, and further strengthened by the breadth of our work in South Africa, has led us to focus on a Good Lives Model (GLM) of desistance, rehabilitation and resettlement based on the strengths-based principles that: • Offenders have the same basic needs as anyone else: - relationships, skills, sense of belonging, purpose, and autonomy. Offending is driven by satisfying needs in anti-social ways through a lack of internal skills and external conditions. • Programmes that help offenders to flourish lead them to behave in pro-social ways and desist from crime. • It is easier to motivate offenders to change by focusing on appropriate ways to meet their needs.
While we arrived at the Good Lives Model intuitively through the practical application of our ethos and intelligent programme design, we have also come to see that there is a growing body of academic literature that provides an evidence base for this model.
Increasingly our work is aimed at providing an innovative offer to the challenge of integrating offenders at a time of significant and stressful transition or helping young people to better understand themselves and their behaviours so as to make better choices going forward. Our solutions-focused mentoring model recruits volunteers to develop strong localised referral pathways, while embedding the ethos of violence-reduction in the hearts and minds of both participant and mentor helps foster reciprocal and shared understanding.
Even if we do not provide it ourselves, our partnerships and referrals for support focus on ensuring that our participants can participate fully in society through improved family relationships, accessing services and supports that they are entitled to, benefiting from education and training programmes and gaining voluntary roles or employment.