A few times now I have accompanied some prolific young offenders on the Intensive Supervision and Support Program to one of their daily leisure activities at an indoor rock climbing facility. If leisure is really an antidote to crime then surely instead of calling for more prisons to be built we should be lobbying politicians to construct amusement parks within the slum estates that bedevil almost all of our urban centres.
Anyway, we got to the indoor rock climbing centre in a disused church and within twenty minutes some of the most prolific burglars in the area were being instructed by middle class graduate types on how to scale and absail from vertical slopes.The young lads took to it with gusto; perhaps they thought there was a plasma TV or some jewellery on the other side of the wall. After all, thats the result of most of their previous climbing escapades. However, for me I was somewhat bewildered that here we were teaching burglars how to climb walls. I turned to a senior member of staff and asked her could she see what was wrong with this activity.
"Think about it Jane? Surely you can see what is wrong with what we are doing here apart from the fact they are being rewarded for repeatedly committing serious offences?"
"No Winston I don't, really I don't, tell me so why don't you?"
"Well, we dont teach them how to hot wire cars now do we or pick locks. Although quite a few of them are well versed in the former."
"I still dont get you Winston."
"It's quite simple really if you think about it. Burglars tend to climb up walls and scale heights when breaking in to places. We are helping them become more nimble and efficient. I wouldnt be surprised if there are a spate of cat burglaries in the area soon. In effect, we are giving them the neccessary skills for catburglary."
Jane erupted in laughter.
"You are hilarious Winston. I never would have seen it like that I really wouldn't have."
Of course Jane wouldn't have seen it like that.
In the words of the American Politician and Novelist Upton Sinclair: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
In my next installment of tales from the Offensive Youth Service we bring our collection of loveable and unloveable rogues to a youth club where we imprison them against their will (as one 17 year old violent mugger put it whilst playing a video game) and use the reknowned punishment techniques of snooker and video games for the day and have take away food delivered to them. Afterwards we drive them home and prepare for indoor football and squash the next day.