I have been out in the community for a number of years but i remember the slog of trying to find work. I remember having to trawl building sites, job centers and agencies to try and find anything and anywhere that would employ me. I was very lucky, i know many aren’t so, and found work relatively quickly. I always remember my mum saying to me that work is easier to find when in work and i carried her voice in my head from that point on.
I moved from the temporary work of a building site and in to a permanent job without too much difficulty and i have not been out of work since. I had to do all this on my own with no support, I had come from a very proactive prison that had a multitude of incentives for rehabilitation, ranging from Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust, education (I achieved an A Level) and access to outside work. There was access to NA meetings, CA, AA and there was a drug free wing with its own mentors that I could get support from. At that time, this was only available in one prison in the south of the country and so I chose to stay there to help myself break the cycle of drugs and offending, I didn’t see my family and that part of it was difficult but, in the long run, worthwhile as now my family are proud of me for being clean and living a productive life.
It was certainly a shock to the system to be released with my discharge grant, travel warrant and the few possessions i had left to hand myself in to probation only to find that none of the positive things I had begun in prison were available to me now, no help with employment issues, continued drug support, access to education, nothing, in fact, in all honesty, I can’t remember if my probation officer was male or female, let alone their name! I spent the remaining 2 years of my licence seeing this person on a regular basis and I can’t remember this stuff, they obviously had no positive influence on me!
There is, and has been, a place for an organisation like crossroads for many years, to have a mentor that had been through the same experiences would have been invaluable to me and others and I am fortunate enough to be involved in it now. I can share my experience with others and show that there is a future free from crime and drugs, life does get better in time. I am now at full time college doing an access course and hope to go on to university to gain a degree that I can then use to support people with drug and mental health issues that are either coming out of prison or already released and in the community. It does get easier and, in the dark, bleak times, keep talking to your mentor, use your support network whatever that is and hold your head high; you want to change, have the courage to try and have the strength in yourself, and support from all at crossroads, to make it.