Young offenders look to Parkrun to reform

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In September 2017 I participated in the Wetherby 10k running race which takes part around Wetherby town centre and starts and finishes at Wetherby race course, writes Joanne Gray, who works at HMYOI Wetherby and founded the ‘parkrun’ initiative at the prison.

As I ran over the bridge towards HM YOI Wetherby; where I am employed as a social worker; I started to think about the benefits of running for young people who are remanded or sentenced to custody and placed within HM YOI Wetherby.

Fast forward to Saturday July 28 2018, with the support of the PE Department the Keppel Parkrun Inaugural event took place.

Parkrun is an internationally recognised event and like all parkruns Keppel Parkrun is a five kilometre walk, jog or run. It takes place within the grounds of the Keppel Unit at HM YOI Wetherby.

There are opportunities for young people who are placed in custody and staff to either take part or volunteer every Saturday morning at 9am.

This is a timed event but it is a run not a race and each person will be challenging themselves against the clock by walking, jogging or running the course.

The parkrun initiative is not only to support young people while they reside in HM YOI Wetherby; by providing regular physical activity and volunteering opportunities but it will also mirror the opportunities available by a recognised organisation in the community upon release.

Last month, the Government published an independent review in to sport which found that team sport improved mental and physical health, helping young people with often complex behavioural issues to change their attitudes and lifestyles.

The review also highlighted how engaging in structured programmes can help to teach offenders self-discipline, team work and leadership - crucial skills for a successful and crime-free life in the community.

Currently there are three prison based parkruns in the adult estate and the Keppel parkrun is the first event to take place in an under 18s establishment.

I am very excited as parkrun have organised for a film to be available to me for one week to promote parkrun both with young people and staff.

This is really exciting as the film is not going to be distributed until later in the year so it will be like a mini premiere.

It will serve to motivate and inspire people to take part in running activities; with the aim of reducing offending behaviour and engagement in positive activities.

I am hopeful that a motivational role model will be able to offer a motivational speech to the young people about physical activity supporting a change in thinking by moving forward and away from offending behaviour.

The young people who have been involved took a leap of faith when I discussed parkrun with them and have enjoyed participating and volunteering opportunities.

In time, Keppel Parkrun will grow and we will not remember a time when it did not take place.

Ultimately, the aim of the Keppel Parkrun is to improve emotional, mental and physical health which in turn will reduce the likelihood of reoffending and the revolving door to custody.