Voice: A core member’s story
My name’s not important, but as the core member in a Circle of Support and Accountability, what Circles has helped me achieve is.
Firstly, I had better tell you a little bit about me. I’ve been in prison twice for sexual offences and the second time was for an escalation in offences. However, this time instead of blaming everything that I’d done and the pain and injury that I’d caused to my victims on my past and others, I started to look at myself and realised that I needed to change.
That didn’t happen overnight but after being given a prison sentence I had a long time to think. I was lucky to have a personal officer who helped me, as well as a damned good programmes team. That team, along with my personal officer, taught me the importance of communication. My past hadn’t allowed me to learn this. So, with the help of my personal office and the programmes department I completed E.T.S (the enhanced thinking scheme) and the core and extended S.O.T.P. (the sex-offenders treatment programmes). These courses helped me realise my aim of changing, not only my behaviour, but also how I viewed the world around me.
When my release became more than just a hope, I realised that I was going to need help after the amount of time that I’d spent in prison. That’s when I heard about Circles. I checked them out and it seemed a ready-made support group for me upon release.
I first met the local coordinator, Sara, and she introduced me after a couple of meetings to the members of my circle. The first meeting was a nerve-racking experience for me, what with disclosure and everything, and I made a pig’s ear out of it! However, the group were brilliant about it and this also let me know that I could trust them. Don’t get me wrong, if I’m in the wrong then they’ll tell me in no uncertain terms and if I’m talking bull they’ll do the same. Through the group I’ve now got the confidence to make friends and they are a sounding board for any plans I have. My circle has also helped me to resettle back in to life outside of prison and most importantly they have given me a different view of myself (although this is still a work in progress). This is the most important help they could have given me. While I’m aware that I will have to manage myself for the rest of my life, to keep others and myself safe, I’m not my crime and I do deserve a life away from who I was and the crimes I committed.
This gift they have given me is the thing that will keep me away from offending again and live a full and productive life.