How I left a gang and changed my life
Jerome* was 17 when he left a gang in Enfield, London. He told us how he managed it, and how he inspired his brother to leave too.
Gangs were everywhere
I lived on an estate where there were loads of gangs. They were just around all the time and you were always aware of them. My brother was in a gang and I ended up following in his footsteps. When I was younger I looked up to the gang members and wanted to do what they did.
Attacks, drug dealing and violence
It wasn’t just us it affected though. Rival gang members attacked us. There was lots of stuff happening around the flats, such as drug dealing and violence. You had to be really careful when you went out that you didn’t get caught in the wrong areas. Looking back, it was only a matter of time before someone was seriously hurt – maybe even someone in my family. But once you’re in the gang, it isn’t easy to leave. It’s not like there was anywhere else I could go.
The threat of prison
I did some stuff I’m not really proud of and was nearly sent to a young offender institution. But then I got to talk to an SOS caseworker from charity St Giles Trust. He helped me realise that my life was on a slippery slope. Even if I hadn’t gone to prison this time, I’d probably do something again that would get me sent there in the end. He also helped me understand the effects my actions were having on the rest of my family. I hadn’t really understood that before. He gave me lots of his time and was really non-judgmental and helpful. He was an ex-offender himself so he really got it.
The thing than helped most was thinking more about what I wanted from life. He helped me draw up a plan of action so I could see how I could achieve some dreams. To get there, I needed more structure in my day so I didn’t fall back into old habits. I applied for an IT course in college. I was really nervous – I didn’t think the college would want me. But my caseworker came with me to my interview and I got in.
Studying is going really well. I’m sometimes tempted to get back into the gang. But now I know how much I’ve got to lose, it’s easier to stay out of trouble.
My brother saw what I was doing – how I was getting educated and moving on. He realised he wanted that too. So now he’s also getting help from St Giles Trust. It feels good to be able to help my family, and give something back. We put them through so much shit in the past.
*Name has been changed.
By Clare Foster
Updated on 21-Feb-2017
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