My world came crashing down in November 2010 when I was given a 33 month prison sentence. I had never been in trouble before and the reality that I would be spending time at Her Majesty’s pleasure started to dawn on me. The first few weeks in were naturally hard, I missed both family and friends along with my freedom. I had decided from the outset that this would be my one and only time behind bars.

I’d be the first to admit I was never academically gifted, so decided to use my time in gaining some qualifications and certificates. I tried my hand at bricklaying, a bit of plastering here and there and plumbing. This wasn’t for me though, so I decided to speak to the prison education department. I then discovered the Open University, a way of me gaining a degree without the need to attend university full time. I successfully applied to the Prisoners Education Trust for a grant to cover the course fees and enrolled onto a business course.

It was now March 2012, time to be released and I was nervous to say the least. My accommodation had fallen through 3 weeks earlier due to outside interference. Fortunately I had been communicating with my probation officer in the weeks leading up to my release and alternative accommodation had been sourced. I found myself in a hostel, not a million miles away from home but in a town I knew nobody.

I had worked all of my adult life and long-term unemployment was not on the agenda. I knew my conviction would go against me, but determined as ever I secured interviews for a wide range of jobs. I eventually signed with an agency in May 2012 and left the hostel for rented accommodation. The next 18 months saw me work tirelessly to make ends meet. Throughout this period I continued to apply for permanent positions without success, all but one stating my criminal conviction made me a ‘risk’ to employ.

It was now September 2013; I was off licence and was enjoying more freedom. I had applied for and was successful in my application to a family manufacturing company. At last I had that security of a permanent job behind me. The HR Manager said to me after I disclosed my criminal conviction, “As a business we have an obligation to employ a range of people who make up the local community, and those with criminal convictions, whether spent or unspent, fall within this category”.

I married my long-term girlfriend in June 2014 and we are now planning for the future. I am now halfway to completing a degree in Business and Environmental Management. To cap it all off, I have an interview next week for a management position at the family manufacturing company.

Dale Carnegie once quoted “Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.”

By Paul*

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