There is a belief that locking young people up will solve the problem of violence on our streets (Young people with knives who film victims for social media face harsher punishments, 6 October, theguardian.com), but that hasn’t worked and it’s not a deterrent.
We understand consequences when we have time to think rationally and logically. However, when you’re young, hot-headed, and lashing out, you’re not thinking rationally and logically.
My hope is that politicians and the public can get away from the kneejerk reaction of mandatory minimum sentences and retributive justice that has defined Britain’s response to youth crime since the murder of my son, Jimmy, in 2008. I’m not against prison. Actions have consequences and there’s no denying that; however, it’s clear that the current system is not working. Young people are killing each other at an increasing rate in London, and we owe it to them to stop this.
Through the work of our charity, For Jimmy (forjimmy.org), we take the time to look at the deeper issues that are rooted in early childhood. We will only achieve safer and more cohesive communities by working together and understanding the root causes of the issues we are seeking to rectify. This involves early intervention, education and engagement with young people and their communities. If we want to stop young people from killing each other on our streets, then we need to understand why they are so readily resorting to violence; not simply locking them up and throwing away the key.
• I read with horror of the plan to increase the numbers of military cadet units in schools (Report, 8 October). In a country where incidents of violence are increasing, is teaching children to use lethal weapons and imagine scenarios where they are attacking and killing other human beings likely to reduce them?
If the aim is to instil discipline and teamwork, why not introduce civilian rescue cadet training, where young people can learn to save lives through firefighting, earthquake rescue, lifeguarding, flood rescue, mountain rescue and first aid, and become capable of helping in natural and manmade disasters not only here but in other parts of the world too?
These skills are equally exciting to learn. If it is thought important to have uniform, drill and inspections, these could be easily incorporated. Let us teach the next generation to respect life and that taking it is not a game.
Waldron, East Sussex
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