Boxer Carl Frampton inspires children at juvenile justice centre

Carl Frampton
Carl Frampton

A spray-painted image of boxing champion Carl Frampton with gloves held aloft stares down in the common area where children held at the Woodlands Juvenile Justice Centre congregate.

The fighter from Tiger's Bay is an inspiration for youngsters who have suffered serious trauma and become part of the criminal justice system.

Many spent around 90 days there and as the criminal justice inspectorate report pointed out, with relatively little time to influence their charges, the centre had "little impact" on the one-year re-offending rate.

The latest statistics, released in 2017 for the 2014-15 cohort, shows that 28 out of 39 children released from custody in Northern Ireland committed a proven re-offence, according to the Inspectorate.

The proportion re-offending has fallen, although the actual numbers involved were very small.

One child said he had been in and out of Woodlands since he was aged 12. He will be 17 next month.

He said: "This place tries hard for you, the education is good, they try and get the qualifications."

He said Brian Ingram, director of the centre, was a "gentleman".

"Some kids love this place - some people find this place is home."

The centre is designed to house up to 40 but normally has closer to 20, due to early intervention programmes designed to keep children out of custody.

Youngsters often arrive with complex and troubled backgrounds, without a father figure, having skipped school and not attended medical appointments in the community, staff said.

Drug or alcohol use outside can be a problem.

They routinely receive a medical assessment when they first arrive, which includes their physical and mental health.

Their accommodation is a fairly sparse cell, a radio is an earned privilege.

The attendance rate at school inside Woodlands is 96%.

Classes include anything from cookery to joinery as well as subjects like Maths and English.

One youngster was making pasta, chopped broccoli in a pile beside the saucepan, pepper added under supervision of a tutor.

Trainee joiners were making parts for bins, the completed components were donated to a local golf club.

A mechanic's workshop resembled an MOT centre, with headlight alignment equipment and a supervisor working under the bonnet.

Preparations were being made for a strongman competition, pulling the vehicle in question that afternoon.

A stock of scrap vehicles was kept for stripping down and putting back together.

The trainee hairdressing salon was busy.

Another child doing GCSEs was proud of his artwork.

He said: "It keeps you motivated and puts good thoughts into your head because you are proud of your stuff, I really do like art."