Education – or should I say my lack of it was the very thing that made my life a very long up-hill struggle. And it was my poor schooling and bad teachers that made me despise anything to do with classrooms or learning for over 20 years. Yet it would come full circle and eventually be the one thing that would give me self esteem, a future, confidence and a feeling of self worth.
While a lot of people feel that education must have a career at the end of it, for me it was more about changing my thinking. It has also been a great leveller. I know many doors are closed to me and always will be but the very fact I could change was the most important thing. And though it was only my willingness to self change that turned things around, education became a great tool to help me do it. Most recently I have been very lucky in that my journey has been of interest to others. And I am so pleased to say that I now share my experiences with other students and the public. I suppose I can say I’m in a unique position when I talk to students as I can draw on my past to help them while also having the same academic knowledge having been in their shoes as a criminology student.
It’s all been worth it in the end. I have – like many other ex-offenders – had to face rejection and prejudice on numerous occasions but this has just made me adept in reinventing myself. Being able to embrace my past and share with others was one of the biggest turning points for me. And now having proudly just published my autobiography, Never Ending Circles, I am pleased that I have also just been made an offer to study a PhD. The thing I have learned through writing and learning is you must do what you’re passionate about. With this in mind, it was obvious that I had to produce a research proposal that was pertinent to my peer’s research interests but also something I could get my teeth into and sustain over the next four years.
My working title is: Education pathways to desistance: A study of reformed ex-prisoners self change through higher education. Not only have I learned to use my past to help others and achieve my own goals but I am a very different person to the one who was locked away in 1995. This is partly due to the passage of time; education and continual learning – not just through books but about oneself too. I know a lot of ex-offenders want to take this journey into higher education and there is a much greater demand now than ever. All I can say is hang on in there and never let go of your dreams.
Article taken from issue 13 of theRecord.