Have you ever felt like your whole life was over?
I have felt this a few times in my life, the most recent and probably the worst time was when I was sent to prison for business offences. I went into shock; I curled into a ball in the corner of a dirty room in the downstairs of the court. I cried like an infant, and didn’t stop for hours. I continued on and off for days.
The thought that I had failed so badly, that I warranted being taken away from my children who had been my life. “What about my babies?” was all I could say, “He didn’t care about my babies!” They weren’t actually babies, my five daughters were 8, 10, 13, 18 and 20 years old, but in my shocked and distressed state, my babies, is how I saw them. After a couple of days, I began to emerge from my grief. I felt empty and hollow, I realised I was also missing my wife, my soul-mate who I had been with for 21 years. I felt like I had lost a limb.
Is your whole life actually over though?
Perhaps we write ourselves off a bit too quickly. Even if you feel that you have no value. You have so much left to give, you have so much potential. I can prove that society values you:
If you went mountaineering and got lost, mountain rescue would pull out all the stops to try and find you. They would spend £1.6m and not think it too much. Helicopters, dog teams, volunteers, publicity, the works. They wouldn’t say “oh hold up, stop, and let’s just check if this person has been to prison before”.
If you were washed out to sea, the lifeboats and sea rescue teams would do whatever it takes to locate and rescue you. They wouldn’t ask “does this person have a criminal record?” They wouldn’t care, it would be irrelevant, they want to save your life, BECAUSE YOUR LIFE HAS A VALUE.
If you wanted to donate blood to save someone’s life, the donor team do not say “quick check google first and find out whether this donor has any past misdemeanours or mistakes, we don’t want criminal blood!”
If you were on the organ waiting list for a heart, your life would be given the same value as anyone else’s.
Your life has a value and you still have more to give.
We do not change TV channel if Stephen Fry comes on thinking “He is an ex-offender, I better not listen to him or look at him in case crime is contagious and I somehow I get infected!” Of course not, we admire and respect the man for his positive qualities of humour, humanity and leadership.
We do not boycott ‘Reggae Reggae’ sauce because Levi Roots, the creator, was once a criminal who spent plenty of time in prison. Of course not, we pick up the sauce, enjoy the taste and hum his theme tune.
You have no idea of the good that you can still bring to the world - you still have more to give.
We all make mistakes.
As I type this, there are delete and back space buttons on the keyboard. I probably hit delete almost as much as I write. Why would they be there if people didn’t make mistakes, or if they didn’t do the wrong thing by accident?
Even the best people do not make all the right decisions.
Recently, I was helping my daughter with her homework and the pencil had an eraser on the end of it. We rubbed out mistakes and started again. If people didn’t make mistakes there wouldn’t be erasers on the ends of pencils.
What matters is the ability to leave our mistakes in the past to move forwards.
A fresh start, from today - Determined not to make the same mistakes again, to understand where we went wrong, why we did what we did, to learn from it and help others not to do the same.
My personal experience of prison was different from most; drawing on my experiences as an employer and with support of prison governors, I established a careers department at a time when funding had been withdrawn from National Careers Service and there was a desperate need.
In my last 14 months I helped 512 serving prisoners to progress into employment. I created a system of CV's, personal disclosure statements and a database of open minded and supportive employers.
Employment makes a huge difference to whether people reoffend or not. It brings structure and stability to peoples' lives and allows them to feel accepted, it also leads to fewer victims of crime.
Many people in prison have been victims of terrible crimes and difficult circumstances themselves, 24% have been through the care system and haven’t experienced stable home environments, just under 10% have served in our armed forces leaving many traumatised, 64% have serious drug or alcohol problems and need to learn new ways of coping.
I have seen young care leavers going off to work on building sites and motorway maintenance projects with pride and enthusiasm. I have also seen older people gaining a wide range of jobs having previously thought they were destined for the scrap heap.
A few days before my release I performed a hand over to a charity called Adviza who are now running the careers department at HMP Springhill.
I was released on 22nd November back home to my wife and daughters. It was tricky and a little surreal adjusting at first but now it feels natural again and wonderful. Christmas was very magical with my mum and extended family visiting several times too.
I have published a complete handbook and guide which I have given to a number of prisons and charities. This is called "How to get a GREAT JOB when you have a CRIMINAL RECORD". The book is getting excellent reviews, it is printed in A4 size for ease of use and runs to 360 pages. I have made sure that it is sold at an affordable price for people leaving prison or with criminal records in the community at under £10, (despite my royalties being substantially less than they would be at the £18 recommended retail price). You can preview the book here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Great-When-Have-Criminal-Record/dp/1696100208
It is my goal to send a copy of this book to every prison library (117 prisons) because I have seen the difference it makes to people's lives.
I am determined to carry on the life changing work of helping people with criminal records into employment too so I have established Ex-seed™ - an employment agency and recruitment network which is dedicated to placing ex-offenders into well-suited, stable employment and supporting them to enjoy crime-free and fulfilling lives. https://www.ex-seed.co.uk
1 in 6 / 11 million / 17% of people in the UK have a criminal record.
Every day our mainstream media tell us about terrible crimes that have been committed and the prison sentences that the perpetrators received. In truth however, the majority of prison sentences are not widely reported. We naturally, but incorrectly, assume that all people in prison must have committed crimes as heinous as the newsworthy examples. They have not, many are in prison or have gained criminal convictions for reasons that would really surprise you and they certainly deserve a second chance.
Having just been released from prison I am completely under resourced, I have launched this GoFundMe campaign in the hope that you will consider supporting me, my ex-seed project and my book.
Within 3-6 months I fully expect that the project will be self-sustaining from recruitment fees and book sales and that hundreds of books will have been distributed free of charge to prisons, probation offices and job centres around the UK.
Thank you for your kind attention and support, please message me with any questions or let me know if I can help in anyway.
. Funds kindly and freely given to this campaign will be used towards general purposes by the proprietor to enable him to support ex-offenders into employment and may include but are not limited to buying a cheap roadworthy vehicle, buying a printer and stationary, setting up an office, attending meetings with employers and individual job applicants, organising employment workshops for people with criminal records and to purchase and distribute books.
Our hand-drawn logo which shows a tiny oak sapling growing from a tiny acorn and exceeding all expectations......
The book does exactly what the title says and is a proven system for helping prisoners and ex-offenders into employment....
Photo taken 5th September 2019, in my office at HMP Springhill where I established and operated my own careers department (spot the bars on the window) which helped 512 serving prisoners in just 14 months....