Joe had spent most of the previous 28 years in prison prior to being released in 2017, a result of having been involved in acquisitive crime from an early age. Being small in stature, he was the one who squeezed through small skylights to gain access and let the other gang members in. Later he progressed to armed robbery and eventually he was given a life sentence.
On release, Joe was sent to a supervised hostel and started to try and acclimatise to a world that was very different to the one he had known previously. The first major hurdle was signing on for benefits. He didn’t have any proof of his identification and because the Job Centre couldn’t trace a National Insurance number for him they told him he would have to prove that he exists! His name had been changed by deed poll by his Mother when he was very young, so they insisted on seeing a deed poll document before they would even start to probe the records. Unsurprisingly Joe did not have one.
Joe’s mentor helped him obtain a replacement document within a few days, but it took many, many weeks for his benefits to start to come through. He found himself sorely tempted to shoplift to get by and on a couple of occasions the temptation got the better of him. One time he says that at the door of a big store ‘he came to his senses’ and putting the item he had attempted to purloin down on ground, walked away empty-handed. The store security guard had spotted him and called the Police but the fact that he had left the booty behind probably saved him from a return to prison.
Fast forward, and Joe has been out of prison for well over two years. It has been a difficult and challenging journey for Joe as he has moved location three times and has struggled, mental health wise. He has several physical health issues that need investigation. His GP, Offender Manager and Mentor are working closely to get him to the appointments he needs to attend and the encouraging signs are that at least Joe is now considering going to get things checked out, whereas he would not have even contemplated it six months ago.
Slowly and surely he is moving away from his old way of life and speaks and thinks differently about his identity and who he wants to be. He says that if it weren’t for his Mentor, he doesn’t know where he would be, but Joe has come a huge distance along his journey and that’s ultimately down to his perseverance to overcome the many obstacles he has faced, to keep on track.
“I’m OK. Mental health is not too good at the moment but I’m doing OK, getting by. Thank you for everything you do for me and what you’ve done for me. You’re a diamond.” Joe