Justice Minister Naomi Long MLA has said sport can play an important part in supporting young people in rehabilitation.
Joined by champion boxers Carl Frampton and Paddy Barnes at a boxing skills initiative for young men and female prisoners at Hydebank Wood College, the Minister was highlighting the benefits of exercise and fitness.
The Ulster Boxing Council and the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), the Northern Ireland Prison Service hosted a six-week, non-contact boxing course for young men and female prisoners at Hydebank. The course also included professional advice on diet and nutrition, mindfulness and mental health.
Naomi Long said, “Many young people come into custody because they have lived chaotic lives and made bad decisions.
“This course has not only helped these individuals build their physical strength, but it has made them feel mentally stronger, which in turn helps them to deal with the challenges life will bring them.
“Sport can also instil a sense of achievement which builds confidence and self-esteem, necessary if these young men and women are resettling back into the community.”
The Minister continued: “Carl and Paddy are great role models and I want to thank them for taking time to talk to the young people who have taken part in the programme.
“The work of Prison staff, along with their partners in the Ulster Boxing Council and the IABA, is helping to support and challenge the people who have taken part to change. I look forward to seeing this initiative being rolled out across our three prisons.”
Speaking at the event, Carl Frampton said: “Boxing has given me everything I have and I am always grateful to be able to give something back to the community. When I was growing up in Belfast boxing gave me a sense of purpose and it is great to see the people here involved in such a great sport.”
Paddy Barnes said, “I think boxing can teach these young people skills that can help them in the next part of their lives. I learned a lot from boxing by listening to my coaches and working hard and I’m sure it has been the same for the people taking part in this programme.”
Fergal Carruth, CEO of IABA, said: “This has been a great initiative by the Prison Service and we are delighted to be part of it. It has been a tough six-week programme but I know that each of the participants has taken a lot from that. Boxing is at the heart of many communities and it is great to see it is now part of this community.”