Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke cutting the ribbon at the official launch of MUSE
MUSE, short for Mental Understanding Support Empowerment, is an agency that was opened 18 months ago to support people who are or at risk of crime related behaviour that struggle with mental health.
Sarah Curran, Interim Manager of MUSE, explained that a lot of people that go through the prison system have mental health issues that are never addressed properly.
She hopes that MUSE can break this cycle and the often-complex web of downfall that offenders find themselves in, “We are committed to supporting individuals, families and communities.
“One offender’s behaviour comes at a great cost, not just financially, but to victims, themselves, their families and their communities. We hope to work with offenders and their families to break the cycle of reoffending but also to break transgenerational offending.”
The idea for the service was born out of Magilligan Prison, Limavady, as Sarah and her colleagues seen first-hand that many of the same people came in and out of the prison system.
72% of males in prison in Northern Ireland and 70% of females suffer from a mental health issue.
Sarah stressed that although there are many explanations for offenders and why they commit the crimes that they do, it is not an excuse.
MUSE hopes to help offenders accept accountability for their actions and seek the correct help for their mental health.
They also hope to be the middle man between the judge and the probation officer to break the long list of hurdles that take months on end for an offender to be referred.
There is currently a long process in diagnosing addiction or mental health issues and during that wait, offenders often fall into familiar behaviour and reoffend.
Robbie Armour, Director of Northern Ireland Prison Service said that prevention and intervention is vital for those at risk of reoffending, “We often hear the saying ‘prevention is better than cure, and in the justice system, this is very much the case.
“Individuals often find themselves marginalised and don’t seek support. We need to break the cycle and ensure that life changing decisions are made.
“There has never been a greater need for support services within our communities.
“We must challenge and support people to change and that is the key focus of this organisation.
“Research shows that there are factors that end pathways that lead to offending and reoffending. Trauma, transgenerational trauma and mental health all play a part in offending. MUSE is here to tackle these issues.
“Many individuals who offend are some of the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Richard Shaw Lucas, Chair and Director of MUSE, reiterated this statement, “Many of the offenders I meet are the most vulnerable but the most violent in our society, but they are people, just the same as us.
“They need help and support when they go back into society, they need help with all the problems they face so they do not reoffend.
“MUSE is here to provide that help and support. I have seen the work that they do and I have seen it work.”
District Judge Barney McElholm said that MUSE was a vital service that he was glad to see launched, “Mental health issues and addictive behaviour are often manifested in offending behaviour.
“I’ll be encouraging legal representatives to make use of this support and these facilities. We need to innovate and we need to think fresh. I am sure MUSE will bring innovative work to the city.
“To me, it is the way forward.”
Due to the pandemic, many have not been able to utilise the facilities to their full potential and Friday 24 saw Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Alderman Graham Warke, officially open their premises on Duke Street in Derry.
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