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Personal stories: Benjamin
Some of Benjamin’s earliest memories were witnessing the armed police breaking down his front door to arrest his dad and spending most of his weekends visiting him in prison. He says he didn’t know anything different, and at 11 years old Benjamin was involved in his first armed robbery. He felt pressurised by his dad to commit crimes and to sell drugs.
By the time Benjamin was 17 years old, he was a prolific burglar and drug dealer. His drug use also escalated from cannabis to Class A drugs such as ecstasy and crack cocaine.
In total, Benjamin has stacked up over 60 convictions and 500 arrests in his 30 years of life.
He says: 'I was brought up on a council estate and around violence. I was taught by my father that if I wanted something I should just take it. From a young age, I became addicted to drugs and crime.'
Losing it all
This criminal lifestyle however took its toll on Benjamin and nearly destroyed him. Crime robbed him of both his father and brother. Both were murdered. As a result of having to identify their bodies, combined with another tragic event, watching his niece die from meningitis, he suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Within a year Benjamin lost everything as his offending escalated - his relationship with the mother of his two children broke down, he lost his business and had spent a staggering £200,000 on crack cocaine. Shortly afterwards he was arrested for the string of drug-related offences and the court sentenced him to a five year prison term.
Benjamin came to the realisation that he was a prisoner to drugs and crime.
He says: 'I realised that I had a choice about how to live my life. I didn’t want to keep looking over my shoulder. Because of my drug use and offending I no longer had a relationship with my two children. I’ve been stabbed eight times and shot. I’d lost a lot more than I had ever gained from this type of existence.'
A new beginning
It was at this point that Integrated Offender Management intervened. Stephanie Monk a Probation Officer and a Police IOM Officer met Benjamin to help him on his release.
They set up counselling for his PSTD, gave him support in his efforts to abstain from drugs as well as securing him suitable accommodation – all important issues to reduce his future risk of reoffending.
Benjamin says: 'I’ve changed my entire lifestyle. I now go to the gym once a day as it’s a safe space. I don’t own a mobile phone so I can’t be contacted by old drug associates.
'KSS CRC has given me, one of the worst criminals, a chance to turn my life around. Stephanie my Probation Officer has been incredibly supportive during my time on probation. She has helped me to break down my problems so that I can take positive steps in the right direction.'
With this support, Benjamin only a few weeks left until he completes his licence. He has been drug free for almost four years. He also feels that he can be a better role model to his children now that he has made changes to his lifestyle.
*Photo posed by a model