Cricket has been in the spotlight recently for all the wrong reasons. However, in West London, The Unity of Faiths Foundation (TUFF) hasbeen using cricket as a force for good in Feltham Young Offenders Institute. Over 80% of the Young Offenders who haveparticipated ina very special sports programme have not reoffended since, which highlights the initiative’s success.
Nationally, Young Offenders cost the Government up to £100,000 for each inmate per year and unfortunately, around 40% of those released go on to offend again. The main aim of a Young Offenders Institute is to reform and rehabilitate inmates, in order to facilitate their confident and successful integration back into society. TUFF’s work in Feltham Young Offenders Institute is a perfect example of how sport can be used to give them vital confidence and support.
TUFF Sports began in West London in 2014, helping just 15 youths play football in a safe environment. Now, TUFF has expanded across the world, helping many young people in varying situations through projects based around music, sport, education and unity.
In 2019, they helped to run a series of 10-week cricket training sessions for inmates at the Institute, with the aid of a number of volunteers. These sessions were enjoyed greatly by participants, so much so, that when inmates left the institute, TUFF helped them to find local clubs to join.
I spoke to one volunteer with a passion for cricket, Richard. He explained to me that he became involved in the programme because he “does not believe in writing people off” and instead, he believes in “helping people recover from bad circumstances and bad decisions”. Richard observed that the “young men loved the chance to develop existing skills and learn new ones”, which was ultimately the main success of the programme.
Spurgeons, another charity organisation based at Feltham’s Visitor Centre, are responsible for many of the Institute’s support initiatives; staff commented that the “cricket programme had such a positive and productive effect on the young people”. They also emphasised that “sport plays a vital role in getting many of the young people back on the right track.”
Unfortunately, the programme was forced to be put on hold in 2020, when the disaster of Covid 19 struck the world. However, TUFF, along with the other charities and volunteers involved are hoping to continue with the project again. The programme’s success in Feltham Young Offenders’ Institute has proven the effectiveness of sport in the behavioural correction of inmates, thus demonstrating the need for this kind of activity on a larger scale.