The free newsletter for law-abiding people facing discrimination and inequality as a result of a criminal record
WELCOME Letter from the Editor ERICA CROMPTON
Welcome to The Record, a monthly newsletter about reformed offenders, for reformed offenders. This month sees something of a feature special in our Second Chance section, as we’ve got so many of your success stories to share. From writing plays and making films, to beating addiction and overcoming stigma, we’re been so pleased to hear your success stories from across the UK. In other news there’s been action and activity in both the media and the forum, including informed (and reformed?) opinions on the biggest story in England last month - the riots. At the same time as the disturbances on the streets, there has been growing disquiet within the prison system over the new ‘Victims Levy’. This month we feature an UNLOCK letter to Ken Clarke, which highlights how the policy will punish rehabilitation and not result in positive outcomes for victims. Christopher Stacey highlights the Victims Levy information and calculator now available on the UNLOCK website. As you’ll see, The Record is about more than our work, it’s about its members and we hope to provide lots of inspiring stories from and for you this month.
Index P1 P2 P4 P6 P7 P8 P11
Welcome, Riots on Our City Streets Attack of the Hoodies Victims Levy Travel to the USA Film Review, Con-tribute Second Chance, On the Forum Media Round-up
Riots on our city streets Will it hinder reform? ANDY H
In the wake of recent disorder on the streets of England, one can only fear for the coalition government’s much feted ‘rehabilitation revolution’. Of concern to UNLOCK members will be whether any attempts to introduce legislation giving reformed offenders a chance to fully re-join society will be killed-off by the tabloids, keen to promote a populist agenda of swift retribution on those who have more recently offended. Much debate has centred on the causes with the Prime Minister favouring the theory of a spontaneous, simultaneous and widespread outbreak of criminal activity unrelated to social and economic conditions – criminality, pure and simple. I have my doubts on this - academics have highlighted the strong correlation between the locations of the disorder and the higher levels of unemployment found in these areas. Either way, little discussion has focussed on the long-term consequences for those receiving a criminal record by virtue of their involvement.
The political mood-of-the-moment is leaning heavily towards punishment and huge numbers of those charged in connection with the riots have been remanded into custody. Sentences imposed by the courts have been harsh, with four-year’s imprisonment apiece for two young men who stupidly and, it must be said, unsuccessfully attempted to use Facebook to incite further disorder. The question now, particularly for those subjected to shorter sentences and therefore released sooner, is whether greater social exclusion than normal will result from the media interest in their cases. Many have stepped forward to denounce the severity of the custodial sentences handed out for offences such as stealing £3.50 worth of bottled water or receiving a pair of stolen shorts. What is less clear is whether as many people will step forwards to offer employment or insurance once the media spotlight has dimmed. JOIN US to receive your copy directly at the end of the month, sign up as an UNLOCK Member for free. Click here.
attack of the hoodies Opinion Piece jason paul grant
It is like a scene from some crazy horror film, young people are taking over the streets in numbers looting, rampaging and destroying London. The police are out-numbered, standing around protecting shopping centres whilst the kids continue to do exactly what they want. The biggest question is, why? Why are these people doing this and how can we make them stop? I donâ€™t really think people want them to stop. If we really did then we would be speaking to them now. Where are these young people sleeping? Where are their parents? They have to live somewhere. They are from somewhere. Instead of allowing them to sleep we should be waking them up now to answer some questions. So what is my two pennies worth? Just to clarify I grew up in one of the poor areas of London, a place where the young people have not destroyed because my area does not have anything to smash
(even though we had ÂŁ50 Million investment in 2001 of which has not been spent on anything useful within the area). Is this part of the problem - money from the Labour years being mis-spent? Growing up as a young person in this area, crime was high and the adults around me had no jobs. I never realised it at the time but the area was mixed with immigrants from all over the world. Our school teachers tried to provide us with a safe place to play but going back home to no food made study very difficult. As another sideline, my primary school caught fire over a year ago and has been sitting there without being repaired. It shows you how people value the residents of New Cross. Back to the story. As a teenager, gangs ruled the streets. If you were not in a gang then you got robbed, beaten up and taken for an idiot. The situation was do or be done to. The adults were busy either working their menial jobs, in and out of prison, in and out of mental institutions, or getting high on drugs and alcohol. Young people grew up very fast in South London.
My story began in the 80s but fast forward to 2010, thirty years later, and nothing has changed. I managed to break the cycle of crime, poverty and disaffection through education. I met a teacher from Peru who encouraged me to pursue education which led me on to a BTech, Foundation Degree, Bachelorâ€™s and then Masters. I have travelled all over the country and to most countries in Europe. I have worked for some of the best companies in the country and experienced how the other half live. This was the dirty secret that we never wanted to face. I remember listening to Ken Livingston, when he was mayor of London celebrating the City of London for turning the financial centre into a tax haven. People are still making phenomenal amounts of money which has not trickled down to the poor people in London. The circles I associate in today are so far removed from the other side of life that it is no wonder why people never saw this coming and cannot understand why it is happening.
attack of the hoodies When a violent tragedy happened in Norway, the prime minister called for “more democracy, more openness and more society” – I can only dread what Mr Cameron will say later on today. Last night I attended a pub in upper Islington with a fellow graduate from City University London who is emigrating to Jamaica. The crowd were all civilised people, who work in the media and were discussing the riots from a voyeuristic standpoint. “Look at what those kids are doing, stealing plasma TVs!” I could have been in Australia; how far removed I was from the issues taking place in London that very night. Afterwards, I cycled down to South London; on my route I never saw any trouble at all. Down through Islington, Angel, Farringdon, St Paul’s, London Bridge, the streets were empty without a ‘Hoodie’ in sight. As I came onto the Old Kent Road, the movie started. There were literally hundreds of young people in tracksuits running around. On every corner, people who huddled creating dark spaces. Young people had taken control without any person driving past stopping and telling them to go home. For those that don’t know the Old Kent Road, it is a very deprived area. It has the famous Aylesbury estate which Tony Blair invested millions into and now the powers that be are tearing down. We are failing these kids. There was a meeting of Muslim men probably leaving an end of fasting event. There were two cafes, one populated with Somalian people and the other with Algerian/Moroccan men. These groups of men were happy to catch up with each other without paying the kids any notice. There was not a police officer in sight. As I travelled down towards New Cross, I found the police. Three vans had pulled up as they were arresting one of the Hoodies. It seemed really strange and I wanted to say to them that the road behind me is full of young people roaming the streets. I cycled on not wanting to get involved. As I came through New Cross, I
wanted to see other areas. I carried on to Lewisham which was completely empty along the way. Every shop was closed for business. As I got to Lewisham centre, the police were doing their job. They had cordoned off the entire shopping centre and were not allowing people to pass through. I went on to Catford and again the police were protecting the shopping centre.
from Columbia or Afghanistan. They had never even heard of those countries and wanted to sell little bags around their area. It was how they saw their adults making money. I suggested they could work in the City, where people were making huge amounts of money. No-one was challenging these young people, allowing them to see another side of life.
I decided to ride back home. When I got in my phone was full with messages, missed calls and emails. My phone had run out of battery and my loved ones were desperate to find out how I was doing. They had been watching the ‘riot porn’ on the telly. To be totally honest, this is the first time I have ever seen anything like this happen in my lifetime. The kids are completely disturbed and there is no rational reason for the level of violence that they are dishing out. The problem is they are not rational. These are not educated young people who believe they can rule the world. These are the same young people who have seen their parents struggle and know that there is no future in front of them. I remember working in a pupil referral unit, a centre for young people who have been expelled from mainstream schooling. On my first day I wanted to know what they wanted to be when they grew up. The main answer was a drug dealer. I was shocked. I pressed on to ask whether they would be importing drugs
For too long we have turned our noses up at the Hoodies. We never wanted to hug them. We wanted to demonise them, exclude them from school, not employ them, lock them up, and then release them into the same situation to repeat. I feel the people who are employed to deal with these kids should resign from their jobs and allow those who actually care about the future of these kids to change them. People can change. If we don’t believe that, there is the problem. I know many youth engagement projects and hard working organisations that are struggling with funding and rely on volunteers to fire-fight, whilst council leaders are on huge salaries and investment funds are not being spent well. I could go on but feel a close is near. Are we going to sit up and pay attention now? Whilst we clean London streets, build our anger and ask ourselves why they are doing it, the impending doom is less the twelve hours away. What will happen tonight and where will the future be? This article was blogged on the weekend of the riots at www.jasonpaulgrant.co.uk
ministry of justice introduce ‘victims levy’
Dear Mr Clarke... Julie Harmsworth
I am writing to you regarding the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996, with particular reference to Prison Service Instruction (PSI) PSA 48/2011 and the implementation of a 40% levy on earnings above £20 per week. UNLOCK broadly supports the notion of work in prisons akin to your ambition described in the recent Green Paper, Breaking the Cycle. A prison estate in which all individuals work (unless incapacitated) is a laudable ambition and were it to come into being, UNLOCK would similarly support reasonable levies being made on wages, for example to support families. However to introduce a scheme directed solely at those in resettlement prisons working in the community is not, in our view, either reasonable or proportionate at the levels set down in the above PSI. Further it undermines effective resettlement for those who are subject to it. I should like to draw your attention to enquiries we have received from people currently serving prison sentences who have recently become aware of the scheme and how it will affect them. One example is as follows: Person A is employed for 20 hours a week outside the prison and earns £118.60 per week. Her earnings are too low for her to pay NI and tax. The victims levy will be £39.44 per leaving a balance of £79.16. At her prison, those
in paid employment are only able to use prison transport to and from work if there is space available after those on unpaid work have been accommodated, which means that she must pay for her own transport - £6.50 per day. She must also pay for her clothes and toiletries etcetera as well as for all meals and drinks outside the prison. Because A is working, prison policy dictates she must divide her ‘home leave’ week in two, that is, not as a complete week but two halves. This means that she has to pay for transport to and from home twice each month, a round trip of 340 miles totalling 680 miles per month. It is quite obvious that there will be very little left from A’s earnings once expenses have been paid and the levy imposed. Further, it is the prison’s policy that working individuals must save 50% of their earnings in a savings account, monitored by the prison through bank statement inspection, in order to be able to resettle on release. It is unclear how this would square with a 40% Victims levy. In fact it could not. Money which would have been put in the savings account to support personal resettlement needs such as rent deposit for a home, furniture, transport, creating a home for children returning from foster care, will no longer be available. This means that rather than become independent, A will be forced to apply for state benefits and loans. This makes no sense whatsoever. Given the limited number of people
we estimate are eligible to undertake paid work in the community and save to support their release, it is difficult to see how the scheme will generate sufficient funds to achieve a worthwhile outcome for Victim Support (much less victims themselves), yet it will do much damage to individuals who, after all, will have completed their sentences in accordance with all the demands placed upon them so as to become eligible to even apply for paid work. They will already have undertaken and completed voluntary work in the community, reparation in itself one would have thought. It has been reported that since learning of this PSI, morale amongst people in resettlement prisons is low and outrage is high. Anecdotal evidence suggests that rather than effectively working for nothing (potentially even a net loss) people will refuse to undertake paid work. This completely undermines the purpose of resettlement prisons and the development by the individual of personal responsibility and an active role in their communities. That people in prison are so severely disincentivised from work is of no benefit to them, staff, resettlement activities, family cohesion, re-offending rates or victims. Information UNLOCK has received suggests Governors are already struggling with the practicalities of this policy. We have heard that refusal to work will result in withdrawal of privileges and in particular the withdrawal of home leave. This would have a devastating effect on families who are trying to maintain relationships – especially those involving children.
ministry of justice introduce ‘victims levy’ Dear Mr Clarke... Julie Harmsworth
There are of course other questions raised as a consequence of this scheme and I should appreciate some further information to answer these: • What is the situation for those individuals who have student loans or who make pension contributions which are taken off gross earnings by employers? • How many people will be affected by the PSI? What is the estimated total levy for the next, say, five years? • What precise purpose is the money to be put to? How will people in prison, and indeed anyone, know how their money has been spent? • What is the estimated impact on people’s savings in monetary terms? What is the estimated longer term impact on their need to replace lost savings with state benefits?
• Will employees be compensated in lost interest for the period of time that NOMS holds their pay? • What will happen to employees’ wages if NOMS SSC is unable to properly verify which individual the money should be paid to (i.e. multiple similar names)? • Can ROTL be withdrawn as a consequence of voluntary unemployment? • Has there been any financial analysis of the impact of this policy change? E.g. employer costs, NOMS Shared Services costs, local prison costs, costs for employees, costs of overheads in setting up grants administration process at Victim Support to delegate money down to other victims charities? Finally, please be aware that UNLOCK has been approached by an organisation which provides practical support to employers such as Sainsbury’s to encourage them to offer opportunities to people
in prison, who says quite categorically that this would be a step too far for many employers. Already a challenge to navigate the hurdles of working with prisons and NOMS, the administrative burden and potential problems will place an additional burden on them and they will choose not to employ people in prison at all. I would appreciate a response to the questions raised at your earliest convenience. Importantly, we request that you review the scheme very quickly on the basis of cost/benefit, proportionality and reasonableness. As things stand, the unintended consequences of this misguided PSI cannot be underestimated. I look forward to your response. Yours sincerely,
paid any tax, national insurance contributions, court-ordered and child support payments that may be due), any earnings above that minimum level will be subject to a 40% levy. The full amount of the levy will be
paid to Victim Support, a large national charity which exists ‘for victims of crime in England & Wales.’ The Prison Service Instruction will be available online soon. In the meantime, you can use our calculator here.
Julie Harmsworth Deputy Chief Executive UNLOCK
levy calculator Counting the Cost christopher stacey
This August saw the announcement that the Prisoners’ Earnings Act 1996 (PEA) will be brought into force on 26th September 2011. It’s been written for people in prison who are in paid work in the community, and for those who will be, and sets out the process of deductions that will be made by NOMS on behalf of the Governor, which will then be paid to the charity Victim Support. To help understand the new rules we’ve developed the Victims Levy Calculator. It should help people understand how much will be taken from their wages. The simple spreadsheet helps people to establish how much will be deducted by the prison and paid to Victim Support if they are in prison and working out in the community. Providing that you earn more than £20 net per week (“net” means after you have
travel to USA New information pack christopher stacey
Fancy travelling to the States for work or pleasure, but find your record holding you back? Fret no more. We’ve produced a comprehensive document for anyone with a criminal record, conviction or caution, planning to travel to the USA. In 2008, over 4.5 million people visited the USA from the UK. Given that there are over 8 million people on the UK Government’s Offender Index, a significant number of those travelling to the USA every year will have a criminal record. So we thought we’d pass on advice about the right way to approach the system. The information compiled focuses on those travelling to the USA for 90 days or less for leisure or business purposes, although many processes are similar when looking to travel for other purposes. We have looked specifically at the processes that the US authorities have in place. Don’t forget that you will need to consider any specific additional conditions on you when travelling abroad, such as if you are on licence or are subject to notification requirements. For more information, check out the document here and if you are able to go, don’t forget to send us a postcard!
conference Social Inclusion and the Economic Imperative open book project at goldsmiths, university of london
With speakers including Lord Carlile of Berriew QC and Bobby Cummines OBE, the conference aims to help inform higher education institutions how to comply with the requirements of university access agreements effectively and economically. 20th September - 8.30am to 5pm - Click here for more information and to book.
CHEAPER HOME & CAR INSURANCE FOR REFORMED OFFENDERS IN ASSOCIATION WITH UNLOCK Adrian Flux have teamed up with UNLOCK with the aim to provide those with convictions with home and car insurance at competitive rates.
0800 089 0341 |
Megan. Sales Clerk. Adrian Flux.
the puppet master on prison
The Record needs you! ERICA CROMPTON
The Record is always looking for contributions from members and other reformed offenders. We’d love to hear your ideas for contributions. All is welcome, from photographs to fiction, hard news to encouraging success stories. Send a brief outline of your idea to email@example.com and we will be in touch with you as soon as possible to discuss your idea further.
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Insurance policyholders must disclose unspent convictions within their household or risk throwing away the premium. If you support ex-offenders please highlight this to them. We provide fast, effective, affordable, compassionate solutions for most types of insurance for all criminal convictions, covering clients in the UK & N. Ireland. Contact Neil Cook, Head of Specialist Risks, email firstname.lastname@example.org or Direct Dial 0207 1939984.
Film Review grant holdsworth
‘Prison?’ is an autobiographical tale created by puppeteer and film-maker Charlie Ryder. Adapted from his one man play, the story recounts Charlie’s imprisonment for his role in a demonstration to shut down the British National Party’s headquarters in Welling in 1993, the escalation into a full blown riot and his subsequent battle with the harshness and monotony of prison life and ultimate redemption. It is particularly relevant considering the aftermath of the G20 and student protests in London in 2009 and 2010. The case of Edward Woollard followed a similar path. Uniquely, the story is told primarily by using puppets and actors wearing masks. The story was very pertinent to me as my life could have followed a very similar path. I too once participated in a demonstration and the excitement of the occasion got the better of me which led me to commit an act I was to later regret. A scene in which Charlie is placed in a cell after being arrested by the police brought back vivid memories. Of the utter barrenness of confinement. The lack of cleanliness in the cell. The indelible image of the light on the ceiling beaming down which never goes out whatever the time of day. The film captures the dread and fear of incarceration. However, I avoided a custodial sentence for my involvement. Charlie did not. A series of striking visual images take us through his 16 month stay in the clink. Abject boredom. Fellow prisoners going through their own per-
sonal ordeal. An extraordinary sequence showing the protagonists own individual hell being cooped up in the equivalent of a birdcage. A dance sequence which ascends into what can only be described as a cross between an African dance and an Irish jig punctuates the monotony. This film is not gratuitous entertainment. Charlie puts his heart and soul on screen and clearly has a point to make. Prison is portrayed here as the antithesis to tabloid journalism’s assertion that it is the equivalent of a holiday camp. A television or a games console is not a worthy substitute for liberty. I certainly will not be choosing prison as my holiday destination of choice.
Charlie’s experience seems to have given him a platform for redemption. He has since gone on to tour his one man play around Britain. Hopefully his new film will gain a wider audience and touch many more young lives. It is touching how much emotion is conveyed by the puppets. Skillfully controlled, perhaps the fact that actors can be clearly seen controlling the puppets represents the level of control that the prison system has over its inhabitants. For more information you can email Charlie on email@example.com
Second Chance Special From Strangeways to the ‘write stuff’ james macveigh
James MacVeigh’s first play is about to hit the stage in a prestigious London theatre. Here he tells the story of how he went from robber to writer . My Dad kicked me out in 1963 at the age of 16. After I was caught breaking into cars, I was sent to a Detention Centre as a bookish wimp and came out 3 months later, dangerous. Already awaiting sentence for Robbery, having been driven to a filling station by two guys in their mid-20s who put a tyre lever into my hand and said, ‘Hit that old geezer over the head while we grab the money,’ I was sentenced to Borstal 4 days later. Sent from Liverpool prison first to Strangeways and then Wormwood Scrubs, I arrived at Borstal after months and had it on my toes straight away. Caught days later, it was back onto the merry-go-round, only this time when I arrived at the Scrubs it was into a stripped cell in the Block with only a Bible to read and bread-and-water 3 days on, 3 days off. My crime continued and I later did a 3-year sentence, but in 1976 I moved from Merseyside to Bristol, unaware I was making a fresh start until I hooked up with a girl who helped me reform.
In 1982 I wrote a book about a lad called Graham Gaskin, “an account of the British prison system not quickly forgotten,” and years later at the age of 46 I got married. With a bun in my wife’s oven, I decided to get a steady job and started as a humble Caretaker for the council, but did a day release course and qualified as a Warden in sheltered housing, a position of trust where I had a pass key to the flats of vulnerable older people. When Graham Gaskin died of AIDS in Hull prison while doing Life for murder, his attempt at a second biography came to me. I edited it and found a publisher. Made redundant from my job after 14 years, I saw an ad in the Jobcentre for a teacher of Creative Writing in West Country prisons, and thought, “That’s
perfect for me”. The employer agreed and took my details, but called a week later to say I could not be employed because I was an ex-offender, even though I hadn’t had a conviction for 29 years. Angry, I found UNLOCK, and it was in their e-newsletter that I later saw an offer from the SYNERGY THEATRE PROJECT offering free writing courses. I was accepted and now, a year later, my play The Lighthouse is to be shown at London’s prestigious King’s Head Theatre this coming September. I wanted to write about this as a way of expressing thanks to UNLOCK and Synergy. I’ll be thinking of their work when I get my encore! For updates on the play and theatre schedules visit www.kingsheadtheatre/ without-decor.
on the forum unlock members
1) News & Current Affairs tinah233 flags up an interesting article on mental illness in prison Click here 2) Employment: CRB Review Members discuss updates on CRB checks Click here 3) Finance: How do insurers find out? Ankerschumann asks a fundamental and important question Click here 4) Ask the Community a Question: Starting a business Bryan has a unique idea about a dog-walking business! Click here 5) Getting Through Your Sentence: What happens when probation ends? forever changes discusses probation ending with forum members. Click here
Second Chance Special No smoke without stigma james wooldridge
Military-trained former fireman James Wooldridge on turning schizophrenia and a caution for arson into a positive lifestyle.
I’d always been aware that discrimination against those with mental health problems was a big issue since I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. But I soon found that there’s plenty more stigma for those with a criminal caution too. I was a teenager straight out of Sandhurst after experiencing a major breakdown at the academy when I went out on parade in my boots, beret and pyjamas. That was in the early 80’s and a time when mental illness and the army just didn’t mix. Many years and many sectionings under the Mental Health Act later, I found myself being admitted, once again, to hospital. This time I was acutely unwell having not slept for over a week and setting fire to my section papers in the garden was a sign that things were badly out of control. Once in hospital and feeling neglected by staff, in the early hours of the morning,
I lit two fires on the ward. One was intended as a diversion and was lit in the toilets. The second was more substantial and was made up of newspapers, books and furniture in the day room. Immediately following the fires I was escorted to seclusion by the police where I spent four and a half days before being transferred to a secure hospital.
Six months later I was discharged with a caution for arson and left to pick up the pieces at home whist trying to repair the damage to my marriage and career. Ironically, I’d been a fireman for eight years but finding employment now was going to be anything but easy. I made a decision to go self-employed in 2005 using my experiences of the mental health system and my skills as a trainer and speaker. It turns out that my experiences of secure services have given me a unique insight into how people are affected by their mental health challenges and how these can often lead to criminal acts. Out of adversity opportunities can arise. Six years later business is going well and I’ve just been contacted by Combat Stress to provide some training on recovery. I’ve spoken at many conferences here and abroad and my website can be found at www.positivenotions.co.uk
Now I’m addicted to success sonia bailey
From crack house to project manager, Sonia illustrates why we should never give up on anyone, including ourselves.
I first picked up a drink when I was about nine. I remember pestering my mum to give me a drink. Drinking alcohol was very normal in my family and me and my brother were given alcohol when we were young. I was also told that my dummy used to get dipped into alcohol. My grandmother used to say it made a child strong. I then progressed to cigarettes, drinking and smoking weed with friends. When I was about 23, I started smoking crack cocaine. Things went downhill really quickly, and in the end I lost my son. He was taken from me by social services when he was five. I would leave him at my mum’s on many occasions and would go off for weeks on end. On one occasion I left him and my mother called social services to come and get him. She thought she was helping me, but actually it got worse. I then started to visit crack houses on a regular basis. Things really got bad, really desperate. I started doing things I thought I’d never do. I carried a lot of shame when I first went into treatment due to this. I hurt a lot of people, but most of all I hurt myself and my son. I had a few prison sentences back to back, all to fund my drug use. I nearly killed someone due to being really high. I remember one day waking up in a crack house clucking off heroin, broken. I had run out of resource. In fact, I was so tired, both physically and mentally. I remember sitting in a park and a man going past asking me if I was all right and me saying, “No I’m not all right”. He happened to be a drug worker and he invited me to visit him at his office to discuss my problem. Continues on page 10
Second Chance Special Now I’m addicted to success Continued from page 9
With his help, I decided to go to detox. I had to ring every day for two weeks to see if they had a bed and I remember one day they said they did have a bed and being unsure whether to go in. However, I remember looking around the crack house at that time and there was a person injecting in the neck and a person suffering with paranoia, looking out the window thinking the police were coming to raid the house. So I went in. Detox was really hard, people used to just walk out after one or two nights, and there was a part of me that wanted to leave too and use, but I didn’t as the thought of being with my son was overwhelming and strong. I feel strongly today that God helped me through this, and put people in my path as I don’t believe I could have done it on my own. I realised, with the help of staff in the detox centre, that detox was not enough for me and I decided to go off to a treatment centre in Bournemouth. I stayed for six weeks and learnt a lot about myself. However, in the back of my mind was an old breach of licence charge that was not going away. The staff at the treatment centre said I could stay but all I heard in the fellowship meetings was it’s about being honest. I decided to hand myself in and had to serve an eight-month sentence. I remember feeling scared, and I felt that I needed to finish my treatment so I decided to go on the RAPt course in HMP Send. Initially, I found it difficult, especially with the connection I had made with the treatment centre in Bournemouth. I really missed the friends I had made. I was put on a seven-day lay-down due to running on self-will and not engaging with the programme, but the staff on RAPt never gave up on me. They believed in me. My counsellor was very special and if it wasn’t for her I would not be here today. The staff team at HMP Send loved me back to health.
I came out of prison and started to attend Counselling College where I completed a couple of counselling courses and went and got some voluntary work in a treatment centre. After three months of voluntary work, I got offered a job. I then decided to study with Action on Addiction and completed a degree in addiction counselling. I also worked as a support worker at weekends and was a volunteer with Mark Johnson for the Princes Trust, where I’d go into the prison as an ex-offender supporting offenders. It’s an amazing programme because I remember when I was in prison I used to have good intentions when I got out not to use drugs, and go straight to my mum’s house to see my son, and I’d end up drunk on the train on the way home. The one-to-one project aims to support young offenders when they’re most vulnerable in or out of prison. After spending 7 years in Bournemouth I decided to move back to London to
rebuild family relations. Mark Johnson offered me a job at User Voice. I came for an interview and learnt a lot more about the work I’d be involved in, and was very excited about working with marginalised groups, as that’s my passion. My motto is, if you can touch one life, then my work is done. My work includes setting up and delivering prison and community councils, facilitating focus groups, delivering consultations and building relationships with volunteers and staff. I have recently been promoted and now manage a small staff team and lead on our recent pilot, The London Probation Consultation. I am very passionate about my work, and helping people enable change. I also enjoy meeting different people and working with different organisations - I learn so much. Today, life is Bliss. From a hopeless crackhead, who lived in crack houses, I am now a productive member of society. www.uservoice.org.
PRESS & MEDIA Relevant news this month ***
• Daily Telegraph - hundreds of police officers caught illegally accessing criminal records computer – click here • Guardian - UK riots: bang ‘em up, maybe, but at what cost? – click here
• Guardian - Restorative justice after the riots? – click here • People Management - Work programme to be extended to ex-offenders – click here • Stourbridge News - Apprentice engineer wins compensation for unfair dismissal – click here • Re:Act (Co-operative Magazine) - The Invisible Cell (by Christopher Stacey) – click here
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Equality for reformed offenders 11
Issue 4 (September 2011) of The Record, the free newsletter for law-abiding people facing discrimination and inequality as a result of a cri...
Published on Aug 31, 2011
Issue 4 (September 2011) of The Record, the free newsletter for law-abiding people facing discrimination and inequality as a result of a cri...