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Project reaches out to give young people a second chance

MAN WITH A PLAN: DanMan (photo credit: Jesse Gerald)

THE NEW year could mean a new start for scores of young people who feel their lives have been blighted after being wrongfully convicted of a crime which they have no idea how to challenge legally.

Thanks to some pioneering work being done in Birmingham, a unique YouTube video has been produced to reach young people under the age of 18 who have convictions and would like them to be reviewed.

The Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), an independent public body set up to review possible miscarriages of justice, has joined forces with First Class Legacy, a community engagement company that specialises in connecting with young people either through face-to-face meetings or social media.

The two organisations have now created a spoken word video to help the CCRC reach young people with conviction who may feel they have been wrongly convicted of criminal offences or unfairly sentenced.

The CCRC approached First Class Legacy, which is run by Nathan Dennis (pictured below), for help after concerns that they were getting far fewer applications than they expected from young people under the age of 18.

A CCRC spokesperson, who met The Voice at the CCRC offices in St Philip’s Place, Birmingham, explained:

“What concerned us was that over the past five years, we have received only 35 applications from people under the age of 18.

“We receive an even lower proportion from under 18s from the black, Asian and minority ethnic populations who make up around 45 per cent of under-18s in custody.

“Our video seeks to reflect the facts on the ground so that it stands the best chance of reaching vulnerable young people with convictions who may need to know who we are and what we do for them to make a properly informed decision about what we offer.

“We recognise that it’s difficult for the CCRC to speak a language that young people will relate to, understand and engage with – and that’s why we turned to First Class Legacy who suggested arranging a focus group at our offices.

“It’s become clear to us as an organisation that we need to have a much stronger presence on social media in order to reach young people. We realise that we cannot simply sit back and expect people to come to us. And how we put our message out is equally important – we cannot simply have lawyers talking at young people in a video.

“The video, which has the hashtag #NotTheEndOfTheRoad, produced by Nathan and his team, has exceeded all our expectations both in its quality and its message. In terms of feedback, everyone has been so impressed.”

They added:

“Of course we recognise that people in custody will not be able to view the film, but we hope that our open source YouTube video will be shared and viewed as widely as possible so that young people with convictions and their families are aware that the CCRC exists to look again at wrongful convictions.”

Nathan runs First Class Legacy as a bridge between local communities and the public and private sectors, and also large charities that want to leave a legacy for generations to come.

Well-known spoken word artist DanMan, who wrote and performed the spoken word piece in the video, said:

“The aim is to reach our target audience of young people under 18 and make them aware of the services available to them.”

DanMan has worked with Nathan on the Dear Youngers project which connects with young people on social media.

Nathan worked on a groundbreaking project last year with the mental health charity Mind called Up My Streetwhich again highlights the importance of communicating with young people through social media.

It offers a ‘street therapy’ approach to young people who often slip under the radar of traditional mental health services.

At the time Nathan said:

“Young people may not be accessing the services they’re entitled to, but they can’t go ten minutes without checking social media on their phones, so that’s where we need to focus.

“We don’t expect to have all the answers but if we don’t try different approaches we will never have any answers.”

Watch the video below:

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