When Jon Watts was tenting out for his first Duke of Edinburgh award, it wasn’t on a mountainside.
He spent the night time in a tent on the substitute grass of a jail soccer pitch.
It was outward certain, on the within.
Jon managed to get bronze, silver and gold whereas serving a six-year sentence for stabbing offences.
He’s the one particular person to have earned a gold award whereas in jail.
And his story is a good distance from any stereotypes of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards being about posh youngsters getting muddy on expeditions.
‘It spirals uncontrolled’
For Jon, the awards offered a “template” and a construction that had been lacking. It helped him flip his life round in order that now, aged 28, he is operating his personal enterprise as a chef.
He went to jail on the age of 17 and once more at 18, after a time he says when “every thing was messy in my life”.
“You get sucked in to that whirlpool. It spirals uncontrolled,” he says. There was “plenty of alcohol and no aspirations”.
“Though a part of me needed to achieve success, I did not know tips on how to go about something.
“There was a way of being helpless.”
He got here throughout the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in jail in Studying.
It supplied one thing sensible that will give him a way of route.
‘Sense of freedom’
“The most important issues have been the teamwork, the boldness constructing, the vanity. It gave me confidence with folks, confidence in expertise,” he says.
He was additionally concerned in a scheme the place he was skilled to pay attention confidentially to the issues of different prisoners.
“It might need been a 21-year-old crying about his youngsters. You be taught so much about folks, about empathy. It is fairly fulfilling to take that accountability, when it is in such a dire place.”
The expedition for the bronze award meant tenting out for the night time on the soccer pitch.
For silver and gold he was in a position to get exterior, with runs within the Chilterns and the Brecon Beacons.
After being cooped up inside, he says, being out within the countryside was “unimaginable”.
“I nonetheless have that now, I’ve a fascination with nature, seeing the rivers and smelling the vegetation, as a result of I did not see it for all that point. It is a sense of freedom, even now.”
Rehabilitation that works
The concept of preserving operating and escaping wasn’t a difficulty. “You have been already up to now in progressing, you are working in the direction of one thing.”
There may be victims of crime who don’t suppose that prisoners needs to be having fun with the countryside.
“It relies upon what you suppose jail needs to be,” says Jon.
If it is about rehabilitation in addition to punishment, he says the Duke of Edinburgh Awards present a framework to vary the worldview of younger offenders.
It provides them construction and self-discipline and expertise.
Jon says that the awards had extra credibility within the rehabilitation course of than classes in “enhanced considering expertise”, which he says felt like “nonsense”.
Jon discovered about cooking and after spells making meals for the homeless, went on to work in a Jamie Oliver restaurant and is now working for himself as a caterer for personal occasions.
He says it is deprived children – or younger offenders – who actually stand to achieve probably the most from the Duke of Edinburgh course of.
“Should you’re posh and have a great deal of cash – and it is only for factors for college – you in all probability do not take that a lot from it,” he says.
However for those who’re in a extra deprived place, he says, there may be far more at stake and the prize is far larger.
“After I suppose again, the proudest factor for me was when my dad got here to the award ceremony. He was at St James’s Palace and the duke spoke to me. I would actually grafted.”
Jon’s instance is being adopted by different younger inmates. There are about 800 at present working in the direction of awards in jail or different safe settings.
It is a part of an effort by the Duke of Edinburgh Awards to succeed in a wider vary of communities.
The charity that runs the awards has introduced £3m further funding, with the goal of getting 70,000 deprived younger folks per yr beginning the awards by 2021.
“Each younger particular person can profit from doing their D of E,” says chief government Peter Westgarth.
“‘For all’ is among the charity’s founding rules.
“However for an adolescent rising up in a disadvantaged space, presumably with no , or going through different disadvantages, attaining a D of E award is life-transforming.
“It is a levelling, constructive, life-affirming expertise that cuts throughout generations and offers younger folks work and life alternatives they won’t have had earlier than.”