It seems from my first ever blog, expressing my concern for my life post prison, my upbeat attitude, complete resilience and endless nights looking for opportunities, I have found some light at the end of a very dark tunnel.
It’s been 3 months since I went for my first proper job interview in 8 years, the job that I was offered over other contenders and the job that subsequently got snatched from my grasp after the poor and inadequate support I received from the recruitment agency dealing with my application. The application, on which I disclosed my convictions and was asked “had I done this by mistake”. As stated in my previous blog, the employer, after hearing of my conviction after offering me the job, retracted my job offer after less than a 2 hour deliberation. I very much doubt it even took them two hours to consider it. They certainly did not contact me to hear from me about how I came to end up in prison for an offence committed as a teenager. Needless to say, had the company of known about my conviction prior to my interview, I wouldn’t have even gotten through their door, despite the fact that they congratulated me on such a successful interview and offered me the position the very next day. Furthermore, they tried to silence me from speaking out about their employment practices and the terrible experience I endured with them. They refused to offer me any explanation as to why they came to such a ridiculous decision that I wasn’t suitable for the position I was offered, based on a conviction as a teenager.
Having experienced such obvious discrimination, I set out to raise awareness of the life long stigma and discrimination that people with criminal convictions face, day to day. I left my job to pursue voluntary opportunities within a related sector of the criminal justice system and I am pleased to say, I have been welcomed, valued and supported, from the day I set foot through their door. I also have received great feedback from the staff regarding my own role within the organisation. I have also applied to and received an unconditional offer to study Criminology at The University of Worcester and I am due to start my degree in September of this year.
As well as my voluntary work and the pursuit of higher education, I also applied for funding from The Longford Trust. After spending a few days thinking long and hard about what to write in my personal statement and application, I finally got it sent off with a few days to go before their deadline. I was absolutely over the moon when I received an email to say that, after considering my application it, it was successful. I was then invited to London to meet the scholarship manager and discuss my ambitions for the future and the possibility of a mentor to support me through my academic studies at university.
Aside from that, I have had great opportunities to talk to children in schools about the detrimental effect a criminal conviction can have on the rest of your life. I have been invited to speak at a probation reform seminar at Westminster and I hope to, in the near future, share my story from prisoner to Criminology student with other Universities and criminology students. I have also completed and adult safeguarding course and been to various mentor training sessions in the hope that I will be able to assist and support prison leavers with their transition.
Oh, and I also got a new job!
Despite committing an offence in my teenage years, I am unwilling and unable to accept the fact that for the most part I have already been written off by society for the fact that I spent time in prison. In actual fact, I was more unemployable, more unreliable and more of a concern when I was a teenager (and still I was in full time employment).
The prison experience gave me a work ethic that many people without convictions don’t have, it means I always have to work that bit harder because I always feel like I have something to prove. In prison I was never one to accept what the officers and probation told me, without questioning it and ultimately trying to change it, if I thought it wasn’t right. This can also be said for how I live my life post release. If I believe that something isn’t right, I will appropriately challenge it and work endlessly to try and change it. It has been said that I have a slightly aggressive tone… I would be lying if I said I am not pissed off about the treatment I have received. I am a mother, trying my best to work hard, to make a career for myself and be a great role model for the young girl I am raising and who watches my every move. If my passion for a better life, for a better society and for a fair chance at progression comes over as ‘aggressive’….well, that’s unfortunate. Me being pissed off about my situation is the reason I get out of bed in the morning, it’s the reason I do all that is within my power, to change this for myself and anybody else who is or may be in the position I am in.
Not all prison leavers are able to or even want to move on from crime, but with the complete lack of support from prison to probation to society, it really isn’t that much of a shock that most go on to reoffence and are reconvicted.
I hope throughout my studies and post graduation I can work with people within the prison and criminal justice system to support their successful life away from reoffending. I hope to be a role model and set an example of just what is possible if you work hard, stay driven and do not allow ‘society’ to limit your dreams.