A former armed robber who helps direct youngsters away from a life of crime is being refused access to prisons.
Trevor Hercules, who spent more than a decade behind bars, has been blocked by the Ministry of Justice from delivering talks to young offenders.
The decision, made on the grounds that he failed a vetting procedure, comes amid growing concern about the radicalisation of young black prisoners and the need to improve rehabilitation procedures.
Hercules maintains that the decision to exclude him was made despite requests from prison governors that he should participate in training sessions inside jails.
“I went into the Mount prison [in Hertfordshire] in 2013,” Hercules explained. “The first time I went in they gave me about 30 prisoners. It was wonderful and the governor asked me back again. I’m used to working with kids.”
Hercules, 60, was then told he had to be validated by the National Offender Management Service (Noms). He passed and returned to do more sessions with prison staff. He had developed a programme for turning round the lives of youngsters, which he terms the “social deprivation mindset”.
But earlier this year he was told he would have to be vetted again. This time he failed, although he says his circumstances are the same. “So after changing my life, now they tell me I can’t come in. They wouldn’t give me a reason. What have I done all this work for?
“I have a programme that seems to work. People get into gangs and believe that society owes them a living. I was a mentor in schoools for two years. You can’t get through to these people unles you change their minds.
“This is important. They are making this man, who has changed his life, look like an idiot. Now they are saying ‘you can’t do it’ and they are going to do it.”
Hercules, who advised former justice secretary Chris Grayling and whose work has been supported in the past by his local MP, the Conservative minister Justine Greening. Another former offender, who did not want to be identified, claimed that he had also recently had his security clearance withdrawn.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Allowing former prisoners back inside to share their knowledge of how they turned their lives around is an important part of aiding rehabilitation. Whilst security should not be compromised, prisons should enable mentors to draw on their own experience and help others to stay out for good.”
A prison service spokesperson said: “Those working with offenders in prisons are required to undertake a number of checks beforehand. Anyone who fails to meet the required level of vetting will be denied access.”
Source: Guardian website