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Two Walsall Youth Justice boys sat at a podcasting desk with headphones on, speaking into microphones


Since Since 2019, Open Lens Media has been working with the Walsall Youth Justice Service (WYJS) to provide opportunities for disengaged or at-risk young people within the Youth Justice System within the Walsall borough. Our engagement over the years proved successful from projects to internal team training and as such we were asked by WYJS to develop a pilot programme to support them in tackling the issue of Disproportionality within the Youth Justice System in Walsall.


The HM Inspectorate of Probation 2021 Thematic Report highlights the experiences of Black and Mixed Heritage boys within and known to the Youth Offending Service across a number of UK regions. Whilst the report highlighted there is a severe issue of over-representation of Black and Mixed Heritage boys within the system, it also identified that there was a lack of serviced commissions specifically for Black and Mixed Heritage boys. Good quality services were the ‘exception and not the rule’ and were not always known to staff teams, so were not routinely used.

Aim of Project

WYJS approached Open Lens Media to develop a full serviced project that provided dedicated and tailored support to Black and Mixed Heritage boys within the WYJS. As a result, we developed a bespoke three-tiered programme that incorporated:

  • Internal team training in Disproportionality, Unconscious Bias, and Cultural Identity.

  • Dedicated personal and professional development support for young boys to support them in re-engaging in education, employment, or training through our Pathway Programme.

  • Production of a Documentary film with heads of service in early years, police, children’s services, and Youth Justice to investigate what changes are being made to reduce the issues of over-representation.


This was a bespoke professional and personal development programme that used media production techniques as an engagement tool to allow the boys to express themselves and explore their aspirations. The media sessions were delivered alongside our Pathway Programme to fit the needs of a small group of boys from Black or Mixed Heritage backgrounds who had been involved with WYJS.

Starting with multiple empowerment sessions, the programme covered aspects of prejudice and cultural identity before including our traditional media sessions as well. By the end of this programme, the group had been given the opportunity to become familiar with various recording equipment and created a podcast to voice some of their experiences. The group also contributed towards the overall Youth Justice Service documentary that we have made in collaboration with the Service to explore the issue of disproportionality within Walsall’s Youth Justice System.

The documentary film for Reformation 2: The System premiered at the Light Cinema, Walsall on the 18th October 2023. The film can be found below and also on our Youtube. 

Alongside the release of the documentary, we were commissioned by the YJS Performance and Partnership board to produce the Walsall Youth Justice System Disproportionality Recommendation Report 2024-2027. This report reviews the findings of our 12-month consultation project and outlines the strategy going forward for their continued approach to addressing disproportionality within the Youth Justice System. You can read the report below.

Case Study

Participant A is a 15 year old male who has shown a lot of development throughout the time spent on the Youth Justice Disproportionality project and has continued to engage with our 1-2-1 sessions as a form of personal progression support. At the start of the programme, similar to many of the other participants, Participant A did not engage much or want to become involved within the sessions. However, once covering various themes around identity and breaking stereotypes in Ricky Otto’s empowerment sessions he showed more interest and began to contribute as part of the group. Since this point, I have seen an increase in Participant A’s confidence levels as he has spoken on issues important to him through podcasting and developed presentation skills. Participant A already showed good communication skills with his peers but was able to expand this and speak more openly with ‘authority figures’ such as myself as a facilitator within the session environment. Participant A has continued this good progress during 1-2-1 sessions and maintained good attendance as he works towards his goal of securing a football scholarship upon completing his studies.

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