Brixton event to help give young people ‘a second chance’

people at a public event
Panel with Nequela Whittaker, Gwenton Sloley, and Paula Perry

Leticia Simpson, Director of I Am Inspired, grew up seeing people she knew going in and out of prison, and now she’s trying to prevent young people from having the same experiences. 

A Seat At The Table, an event  at International House, Brixton, was designed to help support and empower young people who have been through the criminal justice system.

The event was organised by Leticia and Gwenton Sloley, founder of Crying Sons, who helped to set up the London Gang Exit and is currently running for Mayor of Hackney.

“The main thing is for people is for hear the voice of a silent group of people who aren’t heard in the community,” explained Leticia. “Even though they’ve served their time they they’re not able to get ahead.”

“Once someone is in the criminal justice system, society finds it difficult to give them a second chance.”

Leticia started I Am Inspired five years ago to empower and inspire others through education and workshops.

woman making a presentation
Leticia Simpson

“I always went to seminar and courses, she said. “Anything that I could find for free, about development, or money, I would go to, but I noticed that there were never any children allowed at the events, which meant a lot of people couldn’t attend.”

Leticia started setting up events where families could come and learn about personal development and money management together. 

However, she has recently started another area of support working more closely with people who have been in the criminal justice system.

“I tried to set up a mentoring service using ex-offenders from gangs (Roc-On28s), all those years ago, but it didn’t work, so now I’m doing it in another way.”

People leaving prison are given their belongings in a plastic bag and are left to make their own way to their accommodation, if they don’t have family or friends to meet them, and many end up becoming homeless.

Both Gwenton and Leticia feel there should be more support available in terms of education and mental health, and more awareness of what services are already out there. 

“If somebody goes to prison for murder,” added Gwenton, “… when they’re released, they come out with no accommodation, no support with their mental health or education and then they’re left to their own devices.

“We look at that, and that we’re then surprised with the level of reoffending.”

people at a public event
Leticia Simpson and Gwenton Sloley

Gwenton started Crying Sons after in 2007 in response to the work of the Mothers Against Guns campaign.

He felt something more was needed to change to prevent more lives being lost. “I thought let’s preserve life, rather always been reacting,” he explained.

Gwenton chaired a panel with Neuqlea Whittaker, founder of Committed Empowered Individuals, and Paula Perry, who works as a financial coach in prisons.

The panel discussed their own experiences of the criminal justice system, how difficult it is for many people to reintegrate into society and the challenges people face in overcoming the barriers and stigma that surrounds them when they leave prison or youth offending centres.