I’ve just been released from prison having completed two years of a four year sentence. The offence I was convicted of happened when I was 14 years old. I’m now 31.
During the past 17 years I’ve never been in any trouble with the police. I’m married to a wonderful lady, we have a son and I’ve worked hard to provide for both of them. However, due to my conviction being for a sexual offence, I’m on the sex offenders register for life and can’t apply to come off it for 15 years.
Like many women who find themselves alone when their husband/partner goes to prison, my wife struggled to cope both emotionally and financially whilst I was away. My son developed anger issues and was constantly getting into trouble at school. You wouldn’t believe how guilty I felt. I knew I’d done wrong but my wife and son weren’t around when my offence happened yet they were also being punished for it.
I couldn’t wait for my release date, to be back home with the family and to start looking after them again. I knew it would take a while to completely get back on my feet and, in the short-term, my wife and I have been visiting our local food bank to help us out. You can’t imagine what a difference a box of food makes and I don’t know what we would have done without this organisation.
After a recent visit to the food bank, I received a call from my Public Protection Officer saying that the food bank had received a complaint from a member of the public who had seen me there. My Public Protection Officer told me that the only way to deal with this would be for me to meet the head of the food bank and have a conversation about my conviction with them. I feel bad enough about having to use the food bank without having to tell them that I am on the sex offenders register. Does the fact that I did something wrong years ago, for which I’ve been punished, mean that my family and I aren’t allowed to eat? Having to have the conversation with the manager wasn’t a pleasant experience but I’ve managed to convince the manager that I’m no risk to anybody using the organisation and I’m pretty sure that she understands the situation.
Yesterday I received a call from a local employer about a job I’d applied for. I’d disclosed that I had a conviction and the details of it. The young man on the phone told me that he’d checked with Head Office to ‘see whether they could employ a sex offender’. Guess what I was told? ‘Don’t bother coming in for an interview’.
As you can imagine, I can get pretty low at times. I accept that I did something terrible when I was a young man going through puberty. I deserved to be punished and I’ve served my sentence. The person I was then is nowhere like the person I am today.
I count myself lucky that I’ve got a fantastic, supportive partner but I just want to be left alone to be a father, a husband, a provider and a protector.
By Duncan (name changed to protect identity)