Katalysator – network & counseling for young inmates and ex-inmates
Islamic-Christian Study Centre has through more than two years been working to develop and test new models and methods to help young people, primarily from ethnic minority backgrounds, incl. former criminal gang members, out of criminal circles. Our organization has experience working with young offenders both in and outside prisons. Three of IKS ‘ board members are now employed in Copenhagen Prisons as imams and priest.
Katalysator (Catalyst) is based on a research report, Life Stories and Crime. An empirical study of ethnic minority youth in Copenhagen Prisons, their background, status and future.” Which communication options are there? The report was written by IKS ‘ president, prison pastor, dr.theol. Lissi Rasmussen and published by the Centre for European Islamic Thought, University of Copenhagen , June 2010. It can be downloaded for free at http://www.nordvux.net/download/5717/livshistorier_og_kriminalitet.pdf
Based on our experience, we believe that to a much greater extent than is the case local citizens (including ethnic minority citizens) should be involved in the work of rehabilitation and inclusion of young ethnic minority inmates and ex-inmates in society. Thus Katalysator, which seeks to promote the development of these young people towards positive and active citizenship, has citizen support as its focus. Furthermore, it envisages to accommodate some of the more hardened young criminals whom other efforts in this area can not maintain.
For more than two years, Katalysator has been offering a number of volunteer resource persons/ mentors (currently 27) to young inmates (mainly from ethnic minorities) in Copenhagen Prisons who express that they want to leave the crime. The young inmate is assigned a volunteer resource person who is responsible for supporting and guiding him/her through the challenges he/she faces in his/her life and current situation and thus make him/her better able to take responsibility for his/her life. The resource person follows the inmate on through incarceration and out of jail and helps him/her to get (further) education or work.
Katalysator has had (as of 15 Sept . 2013), since the beginning of 2011, 76 resource person arrangements. The project has been shown to have a positive effect on young people, including several that had already been abandoned by both the prison probation authorities and the municipality. 32 of the young people are still in prison – in contact with their resource persons. Almost half of the remaining youngsters who are out of prison (21), have moved on and are now engaged in education or work.
The young people are recruited in the prisons by priests and imams who also work with them in study groups. Resource persons are searched, selected by competence, particularly ability of being attentive, able to converse and reflect. They undergo upgrading courses where they for instance are taught about the rules that surround their work with inmates, including security, confidentiality etc. They also attend monthly supervision evenings and individual counseling for the exchange of experience between resource persons and professional supervisors, including prison imams and priests.
Katalysator – a networking and counseling centre
Katalysator will open as a meeting place during the month of November 2013 in Ryesgade 30 with regular daily opening hours and with a variety of social activities and individual counseling and support for young people. In addition to working with volunteer resource persons, the activities of Katalysator will consist of the following elements:
Individual assistance and advice (performed predominantly by professional advisors) :
• employment and educational counseling, job search etc.
• social and legal counseling, debt counseling
• psychological help (eg. in relation to ADHD and PTSD)
• offer of consultation with social worker, psychologist/therapist, pastor, imam etc.
• help for anger management and conflict resolution
• help finding internship, training or subsidized jobs
• establishment of positive relationships between young people and parents, family contact , home visits, involvement of families in events
Social activities (network-building) :
There will be both prolonged activities and single events. In both cases, the emphasis is on utilizing group dynamics and on initiatives that other young people are interested in (i.e. not special activities for ex-criminal youth).
• informal atmosphere, shared cooking and eating, trips out of the house
• targeted sports as a tool to more constructive behavior and communication, to build greater social understanding , a stronger self-esteem
• small communities with the participation of one or more older person (self-help groups, coaching, conversation-activity groups)
• education (conflict resolution, social skills), debates with the participation of other young people (on themes that are of current interest for youth), opportunities for artistic activity. All this will be done in cooperation with other voluntary associations.
More resource persons!
Due to overwhelming interest in being a part of the project from prisoners and ex-prisoners, we need more volunteer resource persons – men and women of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
Interested persons may contact the coordinator, prison pastor Lissi Rasmussen, phone 28182085, e- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Summary of a report:
by dr. theol. Lissi Rasmussen