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Three tips on overcoming your convictions

AnthDr. Anthony Hewitt has spent more than twenty years working the criminal justice and drug treatment fields. He currently specialises in designing and implementing prison drug treatment systems. We asked him to give us three tips for prison leavers who want to move on and leave their offending behind them. Here’s what he had to say.

Three things to do:

1. In practice we often get what we need through people we know. Taking work as an example, most people don’t get work through the Jobcentre, but more often through contacts. Do use the Jobcentre, agencies, websites, the papers and so on, but also use other people for advice. This could mean someone you know giving you a job or some work. But also it could mean someone telling you about an opportunity they heard about, or even just some ideas they have about how you can get work. The point is that the best resource is often other people, so use this resource. Ask EVERYONE you can think of for help. Don’t be pushy about it, don’t expect them to have solutions, don’t even worry that they don’t know you that well or haven’t seen you for ages. Just ask them if they’ve got any good ideas, ask all of them. Think of everyone you’ve ever known, haven’t completely pissed off, and who you can get to talk to, and ask them, and ask them to ask around for you. The same approach could apply to finding somewhere to live, a cheap car, or to anything you might need or want.

2. Understand the world doesn’t owe you a living. A lot of us don’t get what we want when we want it. That’s life sometimes. And things can definitely be more difficult with a criminal record. Try not to get bitter and angry about obstructions and setbacks, that won’t help anyone, especially you. Whether they know about your convictions or not, being angry or upset with people who don’t give you what you want is only going to make them think they were right not to help you. Why should that potential employer, landlord or partner take the time and trouble to get to know why you’re the right choice? Why should they take your word for it? Learn to deal with the knockbacks as best you can, and you’re more likely to get where you want in the end.

3. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses; what you have going for you, not what might be going against you – like a criminal record. Think hard about ALL the things in your favour; skills you’ve got, stuff you know about, your personality, your likes and interests, your life experience, everything. This is one time when it’s good to make a list, and keep adding to it. Other people can help with this too. Put down everything you can possibly think of, don’t hold back, you don’t have to show any of it to anyone. It’s not just a CV of all the work you’ve done, try and be creative and get down as many things as you can. Try and frame things in a positive way, the more of them and the more positive the better. This list is a good starting point to draw from when you’re selling yourself, perhaps to a potential employer, perhaps to a potential partner. It can also help remind you what you’ve got going for you, and that’s probably a lot more than you realise.

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