Touchstone’s Shafa project helps BAME offenders to rehabilitate by using skilled case workers with lived experience. Critically they know the language of the offenders and are of the same community. This enables trust to be developed in a way that might be difficult for a Probation Officer, and Shafa provides an invaluable resource for the Probation Service to turn to.
Asif (not real name) was convicted of a first time offence of possessing a bladed article. He reported that he kept the knife as a deterrent as opposed to an offensive weapon but he was convicted at Court, given a Suspended Sentence and required to do unpaid work.
English was not Asif’s first language, and as with many Shafa service users, this led to misunderstanding of sentence requirements, breaches of orders and resentment of the criminal justice system. In such cases, Offender’s Rehabilitation Activity Requirements can be spent “going through the motions” rather than finding meaningful ways to re-join society and break the offending cycle. This can be one more barrier that keeps a disproportionate number of BAME people in the criminal justice system.
Asif was referred to Shafa in Bradford by his Probation Officer and worked with our case worker Ijaz Khan. Ijaz could speak his language and was able to take the time to get to know Asif.
After a while trust built up and Asif was able to relax and speak freely. It soon became apparent that Asif did not really understand why he had to carry-out his sentence requirements and how important they were. As a skilled case worker who knows the criminal justice system well, Ijaz was able to explain everything in detail in a manner in which Asif understood.
Asif was able to truly engage with Shafa and completed a 10 week program of interventions and supports, in which he was encouraged to explore his offending behaviour, triggers and emotions, and to consider the effect crime had on the victim. Ijaz worked with him on his thinking and decision making processes so Asif became more positive in his outlook, and his relationships changed and improved.
Asif began working and Ijaz was able to offer support to fit in with shift patterns. Shafa enabled Asif to explain his offending history to his employers in the most positive way.
“I made a mistake for the first time in my life I was before the Police and Judge but it is with Allah’s thanks that I am able to work with Ijaz and Shafa to help me” – Asif