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Byline: Paul O'Hare

EXCLUSIVE EXCLUSIVE GANG members in Scotland who want to go straight will be offered scar removal treatment to help them get jobs.

It's part of plans to introduce a scheme similar to a pioneering US initiative that has transformed the lives of troubled men and women in Los Angeles.

Homeboy Industries not only offer former gang members employment but also address the problems that hold them back, including everything from addiction and mental health issues to illiteracy and tattoos.

Now Scotland's national Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) want to start a similar project here.

And the Record can reveal that it will address negative appearance issues, such as facial scars and bad teeth.

VRU director Karyn McCluskey said the results of such treatment can be life-changing.

She explained: "We see young men who have facial scars as a result of violence.

"If you go into the service industry, you need to be able to smile and some of these young men have appalling teeth.

"We work with Medics Against Violence and we have dentists who help us.

"We had a guy recently who had a tattoo removed from his face because he was so desperate to get a job.

"Because of the way it was done, he had to have it cut out. I can't think of somebody who is more willing to change than somebody who volunteers to do that."

Inspector Iain Murray, who travelled to LA on a fact-finding mission, said: "By removing tattoos, Homeboy free people from their past.

"We recognise that is something we can do here by addressing the things that hold people back, such as facial scars and bad teeth."

es of working with ngs such as the Bloods, and MS-13.

Homeboy' FOUNDER Father Gregory Boyle will visit Glasgow this summer to share his experiences feared gangs the Crips The Jesuit joined by who spent row.

uit priest will be a Homeboy' mentor 28 years on death admitted he was head of his trip to at soon changed met Boyle and mmersed in the Murray sceptical ahead the US. But that when he became immersed project. Murray Homeboy' today basis is "Father said: "The work do on a day-tos amazing. Greg set it up 25 years because ars ago he was overwhelmed by the number of people he was burying through violence.

"One of the things he said early on is that there is a 'lethal absence of hope' amongst communities where you have kids and young adults with nothing to aspire to.

"They become involved with negative attachments and they have no positive role models in their lives.

"They are battling to survive and there is no chance of getting a job, no future. They effectively give up.

"With Homeboy, they get no limit of second chances."

Murray described the atmosphere at the largest gang intervention initiative in the US as electric.

He said: "They have guys coming from all across California.

They have gang members who are in the habit of killing each other working in harmony.

"There is not a bad word or a raised eyebrow. It is just such a special place to be.

"Essentially, what they do is replace one gang with another."

Homeboy operate their own cafe, diner and bakery producing quality products.

Last year, they also opened a cafe and bakery at Los Angeles airport.

And they organise farmers' markets and sell homemade goods such as tortilla chips and salsa to grocery stores.

The reputation of the programme is such that demand for places is always oversubscribed.

Gang members who want to be part of Homeboy have to commit to being drug-free and consent to random drug tests.

If they are successful in the weekly lottery, which offers two people a job for at least 18 months, they are assigned a mentor.

Murray said: "The first six months looks at what they need to get over their trauma.

"They come from backgrounds where they have no hope and it is a massive step for them."

Homeboy employ up to 280 people a year through their businesses and job training.

The holistic approach also ensures people on the programme have access to counselling, education and legal advice.

But one of the most important services on offer is tattoo removal.

Murray said: "The majority of them are heavily tattooed and the tattoos are almost a mask.

"They identify certain ranks with gangs but it almost hides them from themselves and allows them to be something that they are probably not.

"By removing their tattoos, you are effectively freeing them from their past."

Once an individual is assigned a job, they work a 40-hour week for a minimum wage.

If participants don't get a permanent contract at the end of the 18-month period, Homeboy use their network of contacts to try to find them work elsewhere.

The Scottish version won't carry the Homeboy logo but will be inspired by the US project.

And it is likely that it will use the same business model and launch a dedicated cafe.

The VRU are trying to develop the idea with partners such as Apex Scotland, Turning Point Scotland and the Scottish Service.

tish Prison But they are also support from investors programme up and running. Homeboy's businesses in PS2.3million last year idea is that the Scottish also end up being self-o seeking s to get the nning. ses brought ar and the h model will -financing.

profits that go straight That would Murray said: "Any come out of Homeboy' back into Homeboy'. be the same here. "This wouldn't be profitmaking organisation. be an organisation that and that grows through productivity.

a profit-This would feeds itself gh its own "We want to see grow nationally."

this J

g 'Gang m other ar 'Gang members in the habit of killing each other are working in harmony at Homeboy' INSPECTOR IAIN MURRAY


ERASING J THE PAST Tattoo removal

TOUGH CHOICE J Getting an offending tattoo removed is painful and shows a willingness to change

MARKED J Telltale scar

WON OVER 3 BY SCHEME Inspector Iain Murray of the Violence Reduction Unit

FOUNDER J Father Boyle

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 30, 2013
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