Straw Backs Black Mentors Plan For Youths

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, yesterday backed plans to help inner city black youths avoid the temptations of crime by providing them with successful black mentors, including army officers.

After the Guardian reported yesterday that Trevor Phillips, the head of the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, is drawing together senior figures to promote the project – including Tory MP and former soldier Patrick Mercer – Mr Straw praised it as an important “non-partisan” initiative.

“It is absolutely right that the criminal justice system should be tough and effective on those individuals who have committed crime as a member of an inner city gang,” Mr Straw said. “But the more that can be done to divert individuals from being dragged into this culture of violence and hopelessness, the better it is for everyone – the individual and the community in which they live.”

Hazel Blears’s Department of Local Government and Communities has also signalled support for a mentoring approach.

When the independent Reach report urged adoption of the black role models approach two weeks ago, Ms Blears promised government help to foster such a mentoring programme.

Mr Straw said: “The best examples for disaffected black youngsters are other black people who have made their way in society because they have a far better understanding of the pressures in these communities.”