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Personal stories: John

Twenty-one-year-old John – who has committed a string of burglaries and drug offences after struggling with very difficult family issues – has worked so hard in prison to change, he’s now applying to university to study counselling.   

He has been so conscientious in fact that when he was sent to an open prison after being re-categorised for good behaviour, he found the temptation not to return at the end of a day out so great that he begged his probation officer to return him to a secure prison so he did not jeopardise his chances of release in time to start university.

Here is a copy of a letter he wrote to his probation officer on his return to closed prison conditions – written the day before the anniversary of the very tragic loss of someone very close to him. John (not his real name) thanks her for the card she sent him (copied here to the right) and explains how the rehabilitation support he has received has changed everything for him.


John Jones



Well I received your card today and I want to say thank you as tomorrow is Dave’s one-year anniversary and I’ve been pretty down but the card gave me something to smile about today and that little bit more hope for my future, so thank you.

I’ve had fantastic support since returning back to XXX prison from the officers, down to my substance misuse worker and seeing this helps me understand my potential.

Since being back I’ve been able to regain my role as violence reduction rep on a normal wing and I’ve also retained my enhanced status. I’ve seen my substance misuse worker twice since returning and our work together has continued strongly and positively.

My worker has contacted the university by email and has enquired about my enrolment application. I have filled it in as best I can and have finished my personal statement to accompany my application. I have one thing holding me back and that is I have to find a referee. Now after a long think, I’ve actually realised the only possible person that fits that criterion is yourself or Graham.  I’m not sure if you’re allowed to, but will you be a referee for me?

I read you’re trying to book a visit for Aug 6, so I’ll bring all documents then. I’ve also accumulated many reports of progress, negative urine samples, courses completed, college progress, evidence of mentor roles, completion of cognitive behavioural therapy, D-category approval, and may I say a very positive probation report throughout my time in custody. So I’m really hoping the parole board can see how hard I’ve worked to better myself and to deal with my issues/risk factors.

It has been far from easy to actually deal with my problems and ‘triggers’ and I’m not saying I’m now perfect and I won’t slip up now and then but I’ve now  learnt how to deal with it if I do slip up.  I guess my pride and male ego stopped me in the past from dealing with – for example – my ‘poor emotional control’. I didn’t want to be the lad that had counselling and have to admit I needed help.

When Dave died, I turned down all support, help, and guidance offered to me by yourself, family, police and friends. I hid behind my brick wall and hit self-destruct mode, but now seeing what I’ve achieved with regard to my attitude, moods, coping methods, college course, university application, my mental and physical state, it’s made me appreciate everyone that believed in me, pushed and motivated me to identify and finally deal with my past. And it’s had such a huge positive effect, I’m now pursuing counselling as a career.

So I guess there is a silver lining in everything.

I’m not sure what I have planned for the anniversary tomorrow but I will be focussing on me and remembering Dave and the many happy memories we share.

Thank you for your card and hopefully I will see you on the sixth.


Ps I am also in the process of doing restorative justice.