Go to content Go to the main menu Go to search

Justice

Our commitment to employing ex-offenders to help reduce re-offending

On the surface, life was going well for Siobhan. She was working two steady jobs: one at the local council, and a second as a receptionist in the A&E department at the local hospital. But behind closed doors, Siobhan was battling an addiction that turned her world upside down. Here she tells how a prison sentence actually changed her life, for the better. 

Siobhan’s story

“I started gambling around the age of 17.  It was mostly online, and by the time I was 21 it was getting really out of hand. I was working two jobs, and then when I came home from work I was often online until 3am feeding my addiction. I stopped caring about others. I became selfish and hard faced. 

“I’d had a normal upbringing. My family were great and I never wanted for anything. Maybe that was part of the problem – I was used to getting what I wanted. My finances were a mess, with overdrafts and a £30,000 bank loan. 
I was diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, so was battling mental health issues too. My social life had gone, as I’d isolated myself from my friends in favour of gambling. I was just living in a bubble.

“Because you can’t physically see a gambling addiction, it was easier to hide. I did attend Gamblers Anonymous sessions but I was just paying lip service to it. I wasn’t being honest with the group or myself about how serious things were. My family did know and were really supportive – they knew it was completely out of character. They even paid for a residential eight-week rehab course in 2017, which worked for six months, but then I quickly slipped back into my old ways. 

“I only truly realised the severity of my addiction when I was arrested for fraud. I had taken money from individuals to feed my addiction – large sums, £38,000 in total. 

“At first I was confident I could get away with it. But there was a long wait between my arrest and the court date and when the day finally arrived I realised I had to take responsibility. Lots of people had turned out to support me and I knew if I didn’t admit I needed to stop, my life would just keep going down the same route. It was a turning point. 

“I sent a text to family and friends to admit what I’d done and instructed my solicitor that I wanted to plead guilty. In November 2017 at Reading Crown Court I was given sentences of 28 months and 18 months to run concurrently. 

“Arriving at HMP Bronzefield was scary. It was my first arrest and first conviction. When the door slams behind you on the first night you realise that’s it. That’s how your life is going to be for the near future. But I soon made connections with other offenders, who gave me good advice – keep your head down, get a routine and you’ll get through it. 

“From the first day, the Sodexo team at Bronzefield encouraged me to use my time wisely. There were so many things to get involved in, work and education.  I had studied beauty at college so when I found out there was a salon I successfully applied to work in it. The team was amazing, and if you had a down day they were there to encourage you. 

“I worked every day for eight months, 9am until 4.50pm, and completed my Level 2 Hair qualification, plus a business admin course and English Level 2 while in custody. It was good environment to get to know people and listen to other offenders’ stories. It opened my eyes and taught me not to be so quick to judge. And it was nice to be able to do something positive for other people – to help them look and feel nice for when they had visitors coming for example. 

“The time I spent at Bronzefield helped me find myself again. I felt like I was like a broken car and bit by bit I put myself back together.

“After ten months I was released. It was an exciting time but I was scared.  The routine I had found was being taken away and it was overwhelming to be outside again. I was living back at home and applying for jobs in local health and beauty salons, but was getting rejected because of my criminal record. I just needed one opportunity to show I was a changed person.

“The team at Bronzefield gave me that chance. I was keeping in contact with other offenders still working in the salon and mentioned to one that I was struggling. She spoke to the salon team who called me about a new coffee shop that was being opening by Sodexo at the prison. They asked me if I was interested in managing it. I started the job in December 2018 and I love it. I’ve already trained as a barista and taken online courses in health and safety and allergen awareness. I’m supported by an amazing group of volunteers from the Salvation Army and we spend the day serving staff and visitors. 

“I’m also there for the offenders who are being released each morning. I’ve been in their shoes and if they want to chat over a coffee I’m happy to share my story. It’s good to be able to reassure the families who are worried about loved ones too. As an ex-resident they can look and me and see there is hope. 

“I see my future with Sodexo now I’ve been given this chance. The coffee shop is new so I want to stay a while, see it develop and realise its full potential. But my hope is that will be a starting block – eventually I would love to go into recovery support work within the prison. 

“My family are so proud of me, and grateful to Sodexo. They said they’ve ‘got their daughter back’. I’m still on my own road to recovery but in July this year I will have reached two years without gambling. Every week my focus is to achieve that. 

“I struggle to forgive myself for what I did, and even if I gave all the money back I took, I could never make it right. But I hope that by making the most of this opportunity, and helping others, I can show people that you can live a different life.”

Since writing this article Siobhan has moved into a new role at a local beauty salon – her dream job! She is using her qualifications and skills that she learnt at HMP Bronzefield. The role at the coffee shop proved to be a great stepping stone for Siobhan, giving her the confidence to go into the career she wanted.

We offer a range of exciting and rewarding jobs. Please see http://sodexojobs.co.uk/ for our current vacancies in Sodexo Justice.

Do you want to find out more about Sodexo Justice? Contact our Business Development team. 

Contact our team

 

April 12, 2019

Back to the list

How can we help?