We all know a young man who has been involved in crime, offence or conflict. While most incidences usually get resolved, there are casualties who end up paying dearly for their mistakes. The good news is, you can help end the stigma that affects incarcerated male youth by taking a stand today.

Here’s why your support counts.

help end the stigma that affects incarcerated male youth
Our role in the community is to ensure that at-risk male youth get second chances

In Kenya, going to prison is treated with #stigma. As a result, most incarcerated young men don’t receive the help they need to turn their lives around. Serving time in prison comes with unparalleled struggles with #mentalhealth issues, #emotionaltrauma and other issues that worsen conditions in our prison system.

Some of the #mentalhealth issues that young males face includes lack of contact with their families, lack of legal representation in court, lack of sufficient evidence and being held in #unhealthylivingconditions. 

This makes it difficult for first time young male offenders to get back on their feet. The situation often worsens after they exit prison and reintegrate into their communities.

During their stay in prison, most young men in remand prison will spend most of their time attending endless court cases. Most of the time, the delay towards getting swift justice is affected by witnesses, investigating police officers or judges who fail to turn up for court proceedings.

A typical day in court

A typical day in court starts off with a drive from prison to court inside the prison bus or van. After arrival, the young men will wait – mingling with adults from other prisons – in the holding cells where they will wait to be called forth to the court. 

Those who are lucky to appear in court are more often than not, handcuffed together with other inmates and have to appear in court where strangers become part and parcel of their court proceedings.

Their #emotionaltrauma begins when they scan the roomful of people only to discover that their families didn’t turn up. The trauma worsens when they realize that one or two witnesses or the investigating officer hasn’t turned up. 

Most of the time, the prosecution team engages with the judge and the young man is told to return to court at a later date. This can go on and on, until something gives and in most cases, an inmate will admit he is guilty so he can get sentenced and put to an end the #emotionaltrauma and heartbreak that comes with endless court visits.

Those who are unlucky, often spend the whole day in the holding cell and leave the court premises without knowing what is going on. This can be devastating especially to a young man who has been falsely accused for a crime he didn’t commit. It also puts them in a situation where their trust in the #criminaljusticesystem and #familyvalues gets broken.

Effects of stigma and emotional trauma

In the meantime, their families end up facing rejection and hatred when the society discriminates against them. Some cases of discrimination happens when people who gives jobs to mothers of the boys stop doing so. This prevents mothers from earning an income that enables them to feed, clothe and shelter the remaining siblings. 

Other cases involve teachers making fun of their siblings in school or classmates joking about the situation. It also means that the mothers do not have enough money to cater for bus fare to prison or court.

With our prisons largely used for punishment, reforming and rehabilitating inmates can be uphill task. Thankfully, organizations like Lifesong Kenya provide alternatives.

Learn more about it here.  

While most people in the society treat young males who are in conflict with the law as perpetrators who deserve to be locked away, this isn’t the absolute truth. Most young men who are in prison are wonderful human beings who deserve a second chance.

That is why Lifesong Kenya provides a second chance through restorative justice, education and transitional housing. Our work enables young men in prison to receive care and support they need to realize the impact of their actions or the lack of it. 

They receive training in employable skills, life skills and branding. While this is happening in prison, our team visits their families in order to have them visit their sons and siblings in prison and appear in court.

The second category of people we visit are the police officers involved with the case. This helps in clarifying charges and ensuring the boys are charged with the right crime or offence. The last category of people we visit are the people who have wronged and their families. This helps to initiate dialogue and mediation between the parties involved.

Family mediations

Most of the time, our mediation efforts help resolve matters swiftly when those who have been wronged or hurt offer to drop or withdraw charges. However, not all young men who have been forgiven by the people they have wronged end up getting a warm reception from their families and the community. That’s where our Halfway House comes in.

By providing transitional housing, we aim to offer a safe place where healing and restoration can happen. During their stay, the boys receive after-care and support through housing, meals, life coaching, psycho-social support and job placements. 

While this is important, we still need your support.

Help put an end to stigma that affects incarcerated male youth by getting involved in our work. You can visit our program as a guest speaker or volunteer your time and skills. Another way to get involved is by donating any amount of choice in support of our programs.

Alternatively, you can also get involved in the life of a boy or a young man in your community. Include them in your plans to go for a Sunday church activity, picnic, nyama choma or a game of pool. We need to understand that including boys and young men into our activities enables them to find the right guidance, mentoring and direction they lack and need.

Help end the stigma that affects incarcerated male youth

There are many boys and young men out there who need care and support of an adult male who can become a father-figure. Of course, girls and women are welcome! 

You can encourage your dad, husband, brother, uncle or boyfriend to extend a loving arm around the shoulders of a boy who lacks a male adult in their lives.

You can also share this post to reach as many people as possible. Lastly, you can help end the stigma that affects incarcerated male youth by advocating for alternative conflict resolution. 

This will ensure that the society can embrace healthy ways of resolving conflicts instead of taking young offenders to prison where they will face more #stigma and #emotionaltrauma.

Remember, each of us deserves a second chance and opportunity to live and thrive in an environment that is free of #stigma and devoid of #emotionaltrauma that affects boys and male youth who have been involved in conflict, crime or offence.

Take a stand today and make your voice count.

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