Sept 16, 2017
Ex-offender Charles Young tells Lynne Wallis how he's trying to give young people the chances that he never had. - Original print The Guardian
Someone has to give young people a chance, says ex-prisoner and founder of Laces, Charles Young. Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian Charles Young, arriving smartly dressed at his office in south London's Blackheath, is the epitome of respectability. He straightens the collar on his black leather coat, under which is a crisp white shirt. Young, who is fast becoming one of London's most well-known ex-offenders, finds it hard to take a compliment. "Christ, black coat and white shirt, I look like a screw," he says with a toothy laugh. It has been 17 years since Young’s last stretch inside, six months in a single cell at Elmley prison in Kent. With over 40 convictions for robbery, fraud and burglary, he clocked up around 15 years behind bars between the ages of 19 and 40. Since his release, and inspired by a television programme he saw inside about an ex-con in Glasgow talking to schoolchildren about jail, Young has used his experiences of prison life to steer young people who may idealist and glamorise the criminal lifestyle towards a more fulfilling existence. He conveys the brutality of prison life through presentations he takes to youth clubs, schools, colleges and, most recently, a naval college, during which an "inmate" sits locked in a mocked-up cell on a stage while Young hammers home what prison is really like.
A taster of the feeback received; "Approx 20 very challenging year 10/11 students for over two hours. They all engaged and the discussion between the students continued far after LACES had left. You delivered a really positive message set against the background of life choices, based firmly on personal experience. The students all respected your honesty and reflected upon your journey, questioning their own choices. Your presentation did exactly what I had hoped it would do."
Upcoming we have a visit to Mayesbrook Park School for a 2 hour session at the end of November
Approx 30 participants. The small group dynamic gives some students the confidence to ask things they would never usually ask in a much bigger forum which helps them get the most out of the session. This is also another 'New' contact for LACES through word of mouth.
In this session we had an audience of over 250 students for a total of 4 hours throughout the day. LACES took guest speakers including a female ex offender and a friend who although as a young person he was on a downward spiral, has pulled himself free and is now his own boss. He explains that you can always be successful but it takes hard work and determination to succeed.
A group of to 15 young adults who sat, listened and participated for 2 hours in the first LACES session - A Slippery Slope. After lunch we returned for another hour and a half with a Q & A session. Pupils were particularly fond of taking it in turns to sit in the cell and experience 'Real Prison Time'.
Sept 16, 2017
Whether you are a Young Person, School or Institution, or even an ex con who would like to participate in a LACES session, we would love to hear from you
Mobile: (+44) 07931 162428
9 Cookhill Road