This is the fifteenth in a series of guest posts written by ex-offenders who have turned their lives around and now work, in one way or another, in the criminal justice sector. Imran Shabbir talks about how he turned his life around after prison sentences, not once but twice.
Life was good
It was April 2007. Life was good, I was living in a new house, looking after my 4-year-old daughter and building up a good reputation with my employer at the time, the Halifax.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that I was also heading to Jail. Going out every weekend whether it be a football match or just hitting the town usually came hand in hand with a fight at some point of the day. In the space of three months I was involved in two serious incidents which ended up with me sent to jail for 12 months.
On release, I got my head down and within eight months I was working as a sales assistant in a mobile phone shop. 18 months later I was the top salesman in the Midlands and was promoted to assistant manager. I had turned my life around and proved that it can be done.
Then it went horribly wrong again. I was arrested in February 2014 along with nine others for conspiracy to supply class B drugs. This came totally out of the blue. To cut a long story short I had been under surveillance with the rest of the group and became guilty by association as two of the lads that were being watched were long-time friends of mine who I socialised with on a regular basis. On 30 March 2016, I was sentenced to 2-and-a-half-years of which I served eleven months and completed 41/2 months on Home Detention Curfew – an electronic tag.
Making the most of my sentence
Once again, I was back in HMP. I promised myself that I was going to make the most of my sentence to ensure I gave myself the best opportunity to get my life back on track when released.
I got involved in every sort of activity I could.
I became a peer mentor for education, doing anything and everything – from running functional skills sessions to delivering Health and safety training. One of the key things that made me realise I needed to make a difference was the negative attitude from the lads regarding employment after release. The majority of the lads had already completely written themselves off in regards to ever getting a job again just because they were in prison.
I felt driven to change the negative outlook on this. I implemented my own 15-minute induction talk to the lads about employment on release. I also started a local Ban the Box campaign, making the lads aware of all the different employers who didn’t ask about criminal convictions. This started to raise people’s hopes and I got a mass of positive feedback from inmates and staff including Governors.
HMP Ranby were that impressed with what I was doing they changed my role and made me a Peer Advisor for resettlement. I was now helping the lads with numerous issues ranging from sorting out debt, opening bank accounts and organising housing for them on release. . I was making a difference and this was all down to the fact of me being in the same shoes as the lads, me being able to relate and understand the lads and also being able to feed my positivity into them.
I supported two individuals who had tried to commit suicide twice, turning their situation around and leaving them in a good place which I am immensely proud of.
I also completed my level 3 in Information, Advice & Guidance whilst in this role. I was released on the 27 February this year and within 4 weeks I had received a phone call offering me a job.
I was recommended to Jacob Hill of Offploy (the ex-offender employment experts) by HMP Ranby and was soon working full time for them. I couldn’t be happier as Offploy is as passionate about helping ex-offenders into work as I am.
In the ten weeks I’ve been working for Offploy I have been on numerous prison visits delivering motivational speeches to large audiences. One of the visits was going back to my old prison HMP Ranby to speak to the lads about where I am now, how I was able to find work on release and to generally try and change the mind set to show that it is possible for everyone to succeed and gain employment even after going to jail.
I have received a mass of positive feedback from these talks, from both inmates and staff and feel that people listen to me because I have real life experience of tackling exactly the same problems that they are facing.
I have turned my life around not once but twice and feel that If I can do it anyone can…
You can connect with Imran on LinkedIn