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It's a fair COP

Why wait until young men have landed themselves behind bars before trying to rehabilitate them through education? In Leicestershire - on the doorstep of Glen Parva - a unique programme is under way to ensure local youngsters have the option of prevention rather than cure.

The Challenging Offending Programme (COP) and Workout is an intensive, two-tier community sentence that focuses on persistent offending coupled with low achievement and unemployment. It is run by Leicestershire Probation Service in collaboration with APEX, an advisory agency on training and education for probationers. Offenders must attend 32 three-hour sessions over six weeks.

Jonathan Palmer is currently attending. He says: "COP gets you to analyse your offence, to look at how you came to offend. Then you look at strategies to avoid it, like keeping away from alcohol and drugs, and coping with finances. I was on probation and came on this course as a last resort, as an alternative to prison."

Workout helped Jonathan acquire skills. "I started out doing a responsible motor vehicle user's course then went on to driving lessons. Then I trained to be a forklift driver. I've also got a City and Guilds in photography - with distinction. I came here sceptical. But after two weeks, I wanted to come rather than thinking it was something I had to do."

As well as City and Guilds, RSA and pre-NVQ certificates, Workout provides access to college. Edward Jones, client adviser for APEX, says: "People you'd have never believed would go on to do a college course have done just that. One person, an alcoholic with multiple offences, did a catering course through Workout and went on to do catering at college. Another person was a very difficult, negative woman. But after doing a poetry course, she discovered she was good at it and her outlook has become more positive."

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