David Cameron spoke shortly after the riots that swept the UK in late August of the "tough love" that needed to be given to young people living in deprived areas. A large proportion of people involved in the riots were teenagers and the image of these youngsters with no hope causing havoc in the streets led to media headlines asking how we mend "Broken Britain."
As Prime Minister David Cameron points out "There are too many parts of our society that are broken whether it is broken families, or whether it is some communities breaking down, whether it is the level crime, the level of gang membership, whether it's problems of people stuck on welfare unable to work... we do need a social recovery to mend the broken society, and for me that's what the Big Society is all about." See following link to speech on the BBC http://http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12443396
How broken is British society? That is the question one needs to ask when assessing how to fix it. At the moment it would be fair to say that there is an ever widening gap between rich and poor in the UK. This is where the breakage starts to occur. There are communities living in the UK that are rife with gang related crime, knife and gun crime. Sadly it is these areas that David Cameron needs to look out for if he is to mend broken Britain.
The second question to ask is how do we mend broken Britain? One way could be to introduce a young offender prison program, where those showing extreme and troublesome behaviour life of crime, are shown some "tough love" from those who know the dangers of a path of criminality.
The TV Programme Beyond Scared Straight returns on the Crime and Investigation Channel Network (Sky 553 and Virgin 242) on Sundays from the 5th February at 9pm and shows an insight into an American program aimed at scaring disillusioned youth the realities of prison life. The power of the original "Scared Straight" (1978) film inspired dozens of inmate-run intervention programs in men's and women's prisons across the USA. These youth offender initiatives put boys and girls, ranging in age from 11 to 18, into intensive one-day in-prison sessions that show them the shocking truths of life behind bars.
The TV series seems to have the desired affect scaring the troublesome teens enough to change. I think this method of extreme discipline could work to mend broken Britain. But what is very apparent about the programme and the teenagers in the series is that their background is often broken and very hard. This is no different to some of the young kids who joined the riots back in August.
There are currently 2.3 million men and women behind bars in America and it must cost a staggering amount to keep these people locked up. Three generations of incarceration broadcasted on BBC Radio 4 last Tuesday at 8pm looked at one family where three generations of fathers and brothers had all been sent to jail. See following link for more info http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/
The programme focuses on Geoffrey, who as a young man broke his neck in a car accident and was subsequently confined to a wheel chair. He is the one brother in this family who as a result of the crash did not end up doing life in prison.
Geoffrey's father and brothers are all in and out of the American justice system. Geoffrey's father left him when he was young, his mother was working all hours and this led to Geoffrey and his incarcerated brothers to be raised by the street.
Reverting back to the programme Beyond Scared Straight it becomes apparent that 15-year-old Jose who has been arrested numerous times for various offences went out drug dealing at 14 with his father who is now incarcerated. Of all the young people in this TV series, he is the teenager who seems most at risk and likely to be doing a jail term at some stage. But how is a young teen to know any better if his father, the supposed role modal has been sent to jail?
Britain could introduce a system where troublesome teenagers are incarcerated for a week, but I feel that more is needed to mend broken Britain. One answer for David Cameron is to focus his attention on education. I feel he needs to open more academy schools like Mossbourne academy in East London that was described by the Tories in the 1990s as the "worst school in Britain." The school is been revered by David Cameron and Tony Blair.
The school has been transformed to the extent that pupils are now completing their A-levels, getting As and even entrances to Cambridge. There is one core ingredient that I believe has led to the success of the school. This was a combination of high expectations and the close scrutiny of school staff who acted as surrogate parents for pupils.
I feel this is the core ingredient for the success of the school, and I believe it shows that if you give unprivileged children a chance and include them, and give them a good system of education they will take that chance and succeed. If you exclude them it will just lead to another generation of outcast students who do not feel represented and therefore cause trouble.
Follow Richard Chidwick on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ChidwickR