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Blog: A major step closer to achieving our vision for sport

jmIn his third blog, Alliance of Sport Co-Founder and Chair, James Mapstone, explains why the review of sport in youth justice we’re leading for the Ministry of Justice is such an important step to achieving our vision.

This week’s announcement that we are to lead a major review of sport in the youth justice system is an important milestone for me personally, as well as for the Alliance.

Alongside our partners at Clinks, and lead academic Professor Rosie Meek, our review will conduct a thorough audit of the use of Sport for Development and community partnerships across the secure estate in England and Wales. It will also provide an evidence base of ‘best practice’ that can be used to strengthen sport’s impact on offenders, both in prisons and community programmes.

When myself and Justin Coleman co-founded the Alliance in 2015, our strategic objective was to ensure every person at risk of offending had access to a Sport for Development intervention. We wanted to make it the go-to tool across the justice system for preventing offending and rehabilitating offenders.

This review feels like a massive step closer to that objective becoming a reality.

It was commissioned by Dr Phillip Lee, Under Secretary of State for Youth Justice, and once it’s published in spring 2018, his support can only help to ensure the review influences future Government policy on use of sport in both youth and criminal justice, and leads to tangible, positive change.

For me, this review is so significant because it is a big step nearer the completion of a journey that started back in 2000, and when I became PE Manager at HMP & YOI Ashfield in Bristol. That was where my belief in reducing re-offending through sport began – and where my ambition to give every young offender access to a rehabilitative sport intervention started to become a reality.

At Ashfield I developed a programme that structured education, training and mentoring around the central pillar of sport to improve the life chances of young offenders. Its success spawned the 2nd Chance Project, which grew in scope into the 2nd Chance Group, and has now expanded with the Alliance of Sport.

Throughout that growth, our long-term goal has been to put sport at the heart of the criminal justice system, and the prospect of that potentially becoming a reality is a massive thrill.

We’ve always said that every prison should have this kind of sport intervention in place; that it shouldn’t just be a ‘nice to have’. I know that there are many others who share my vision.

A joined-up package of prison sport programmes through PE departments, and community partnerships to support young offenders through the gate, is proven to be effective.

This review will help us to identify that formally, which will then give us a firm basis to make recommendations and make our long-held vision a reality.

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