By Aalia Khan

An innovative new project; The Bradford Centre of Excellence: Positive Pathways for Young People has been created to deliver targeted interventions about the consequences of crime.

The centre opened at the Girlington Community centre in Bradford and the programmes that the centre will be putting on are designed and presented by ex-offenders and prisoners to young people from across the Bradford District who are “at risk”.

“At risk” young people include those who are vulnerable or excluded, and those who are already offending or who have fallen into problematic lifestyles. The centre’s role is to provide vital support that helps young people resolve problems and choose a positive future.

The centre uses a series of theatrical sets, such as a courtroom, a prison cell, as well as a shop and park where crime might happen. Mentors will be using these sets to get over to young people what crime can involve.

Cllr Imran Hussain, Chair of the centre, said “This centre teaches young people the real harsh reality of a life of crime. Too often crime is glamorised and this deglamorises it by their peer group, which is people they will listen to, such as ex offenders telling them simple things like what a cell is like, or how cramped the conditions are and the dangers of prison life.”

Cllr Hussain went on “They will learn the real harsh end of a life of crime and also build their aspirations, confidence and ambitions to allow them to excel in any field they choose to.”

Similar projects in the country presented that these kinds of interventions deliver great improvement in the numbers of young people who return to mainstream education and refrain from further crime.

The initiative, funded by Bradford Council, has been developed in partnership with West Yorkshire Police and other partners in the youth justice system. Mick Chandsoor project lead explained that referrals will come in from organisations such as the probation service, youth offender’s team, schools etc.

Mark Burns-Williamson, Police and Crime Commissioner for West Yorkshire said “It will hopefully have a big impact on young people of the consequences of crime. The uniqueness is the use of ex-offenders. They can tell the story in a way that lots of others can’t and they’ve gone through the reality. “

The centre officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Bradford Cllr Mike Gibbons, on Wednesday 18 February, he said “It is extremely important to stop anyone thinking of going into a life of crime and to stop and understand what they are doing. It is important for the community at large as a life of crime is no benefit to anyone. The youths will get a true understanding of a life of crime from ex offenders.”

Naz, Director of Consequence, who work with young people, explains that “It’s ex offenders who have been there and done that, that are giving back.”