On the 29th of February 2020, the National Lottery-Funded community group - Together As One Trust (TAOT) organised one of its programmed crime prevention events in Manchester. The target audience was mainly younger family members of a Manchester-based community organisation called the Cameroon Family Group, otherwise known as CAMFAG. Taking place in a rented hall in Vicarage Road in Swinton, the audience was presented with a drama that focused on the consequences of committing a crime or living a life of crime. The performance was divided into two parts.
The first part told the story of a criminal
whose case had been in the court during the
previous six weeks as all the evidence against
him was examined and the witnesses testified.
It was the day of sentencing. The lady judge
recounted the impact that the criminal actions
of the accused had on specific individuals as
well as on the community. Some of his crimes
included burglary, Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH)
linked to knife crime, drug-related offences,
theft and many more.
The following are just some of the
consequences of crime in the community and
individuals perpetrated by the accused; they range from fear within members of his community and its neighbourhood and some were victims of burglary and theft. Also, other younger persons are now involved in drug crimes, meanwhile one of his latest crimes was a knife-related fight that resulted in a victim losing sight in one of his eyes.
The judge pointed out that in the past, shorter sentences previously handed him in addition to recommended community work were in order to help rehabilitate him. She added that such an approach had not worked given that he carried on committing crimes. As a result, he was going to be sentenced this time to 8 effective years in jail.
He was then escorted to a prison cell where he would spend the next 8 years. While in prison, (a make-shift and imaginary prison), which was a large circle of humans who formed some kind of chain barrier supposedly difficult to break out of, the criminal having spent his initial days inside and starting to realize what he was missing out there, endeavoured to get out.
Everyone in the audience was taught to respond to any attempt by the prisoner to get out of jail, with a simple chorus chanting - “no way”. For example, the criminal would say “I want my mommy”, to which the response by the audience was, “no way”, “I want my daddy”, “no way”, “I want my tablet”, “no way”, “I want my cell phone”, “no way”, “I need my friends”, “no way”, “I want my bicycle”, “no way”, “please let me out”, “no way. With no possibility of getting out before the 8 years would elapse, the criminal resigned himself to his fate. He ended up spending 8 effective years of his life in prison.
The second part of the performance sought to establish what the youngsters had learnt from the first part. In other words, what did they take away in terms of a lesson? First, they were asked to mention criminal related acts.
They took turns and responses ranged from burglary, GBH, drug-related crimes such as dealing in and usage among others.
Next, they were asked what they considered to their hands to try and answer the question. One of the respondents said that “you could go to jail”, another said if you went to jail, you’ll miss your friends, others said you'll miss your family, while another said you’ll not have access to your tablet and or mobile phone, yet another said that he’ll miss playing on their trampoline with friends, or playing football with friends and classmates, riding on his bike around the neighbourhood, going on holiday, would not be able to do certain jobs, or even be allowed to undertake certain courses at the university and so on. Furthermore, the facilitator included the after-jail (lifelong) consequences on their criminal record. For instance, exclusion from certain professions, travel restrictions to certain countries etc.
Also, the youngsters were asked to state what they would do should they get approached or invited to part-take in criminal activity. The first respondent said he will report to his teacher if it’s in school or to his parents if it is while at home. Another said he will run away and tell his mommy, and another said he will cease to be friends with that individual.
The next and final question was around what they considered to be good characteristics of a good boy or girl. Responses ranged from being obedient to their parents, taking their studies extremely seriously, reporting anything that they are unsure or concerned about, and doing everything to stay out of trouble as much as possible etc.