CEO of the Solas Project Eddie D’Arcy

GUIDING Dublin’s young people away from and out of crime is a vocation for the Solas Project team.

The Dublin 8 based organisation is committed to supporting young people who are involved or at risk of becoming involved in criminality in Dublin and have started a new initiative, inspired by a similar group in Boston called Roca.

Roca’s mission is to “disrupt the cycle of incarceration and poverty by helping young people transform their lives” and now The Justice Team initiative in Dublin aims to emulate their success.

Funded by the Irish Prison and Probation services, the Justice Team is a three-pronged approach to reach these young people in the south west inner city.

“Our vision is that all children and young people know their self-worth and can take full advantage of their potential – and we really believe that,” said CEO of the Solas Project Eddie D’Arcy at the launch of the Justice Programme last Friday.

“We concentrate on reaching out to those most in need.”

Eddie discussed the success of Solas initiatives, which are concentrated in the south west inner city, stretching from Stanhope Street near the Smithfield area, right through from Guinnesses to Aungier Street and out to the canals, taking in “a bit of Inchicore and a bit of Crumlin”.

However, their prison service, Compass, extends to the whole of Dublin.

“We build a relationship with the young people while they’re in prison, and as it gets closer to their release we build the relationship to the point, where they agree on a voluntary basis that they want to keep receiving support from us.”

There is no limits on how long the young people can receive the supports, which is a crucial aspect of both Solas and Roca’s models.

The ultimate goal of the groups are helping young people achieve a pathway to economic independence.

Some young people “fall by the wayside, relapse, end up back in prison,” Eddie explains but the model being explored by the group now is to stick with them.

“We stay with them no matter what happens, we don’t give up on them. It’s takes a long time for them to accept and realise that but after a while, they realise that ‘that idiot Eddie D’Arcy isn’t going away, he’s going to hound me into trying to stay involved so let’s have another go at it’,” Eddie said.

Solas Project has assembled an experienced multi-disciplinary team with a range of skills to staff the Justice Programme.

Many of the young people from the different target groups are aware of and know each other and the team say they are anxious to ensure they recognize that others are consciously making efforts to change and that their support is long term.

Team Leader Aishling Golden said that they are ready to do “something different” to help the young people who fall through the cracks.

Aishling explained that 18 – 24 year olds make up 9% of the population in Ireland yet they make up 26% of the prison population.

“They are grossly over represented in the prisons,” she says.

“After young people have gone through the prison system, 62% of them will reoffend – there’s something wrong when this 62% are continuing to have no progress.

“So we’re saying we’re going to do something different – we are going to chase those 18 – 24 year olds.”

Read more about the Solas Project at solasproject.ie.

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