Could you give up time to help punish crime?
Youth Offending Service is looking for residents to join community panel
Residents who want to make a difference to their local area are being invited to apply to help young offenders pay for their crimes.
Hounslow Youth Offending Service (YOS) are looking for residents who like working with young people to join the community panel.
The community panel decides what activities young offenders will perform to make amends for their offences and understand the consequences on their victims and the wider community.
Terry Melvin, who has been a community panel member since April 2002 said, “We are members of the community who oversee contracts with young people. We act as the voice of the community.
“We look at the case in a different light to the YOS, but we liaise closely with them and take their reports into account. We have a different perspective and try to ask: ‘what would the community expect?’
“I enjoy it because I have not yet met a young person I do not like. You can feel for them. They’ve got into difficulties and don’t know a way out, and we try to help them get out of the mess.
“We can be firm when we have to be and can refer young people back to the Court if they are not complying with their contract.
“On the other hand, when you do get young people through it, you often get positive feedback with them saying they realize they were silly, they have now moved on and are trying to keep out of trouble.
“You see the young people about every three months so you can see if they are making any progress or not. We can sit down for a straightforward discussion about what’s going on.
Panel volunteers could require young people to meet the victim of their crime, do charity work, help out at a youth club or clear gardens or wasteland for the community, as well as work on areas of their lives that could lead them back into trouble.
Terry continued, “A lot of them have never been asked what they feel before so it’s good for them to have an understanding adult who can help make them think about what they’ve done.
“They need time to reflect and think about what they’ve done. We get them to think about how they would feel if they were the victim. Sometimes they send a letter of apology; sometimes they meet the victim to talk it through.
“We have panels where the victim is there. We once had a woman who had had her car taken from a car park. She was at the panel and explained to him that she was stranded in the supermarket with two kids and she couldn’t get in touch with her husband. He was so apologetic and she ended up forgiving him.
“You have to have the feeling that young people must learn to be responsible, but also need help. Remember, you were young once and probably did silly things.”
Anyone over 18, who feels a sense of community and are prepared to give up some time can be a panel member. Panel members’ backgrounds are quite varied and can be any age to help get a variety of perspectives.
Training is provided - all you need to bring is your common sense and a positive outlook on life and young people. After training, volunteers need to be available for panel meetings about twice a month at times to suit them - either evening or daytime. Expenses are provided to help cover the costs of childcare and travel.
September 11, 2007