HACRO have been searching for inspirational stories from ex-offenders. Erika’s story is about how she made the most of a bad situation and looked to the future:

By Prisoners Education Trust: 

When Erika went to prison she set herself the task of drawing a postcard a day for the whole of her sentence. Getting funding for a BA Hons in Visual Arts inside opened the door to working as an artist and tutor after release.

When I entered the prison system I was very naïve and out of my depth in this new world behind locked doors, with people you don’t know and operating in a regime far removed from ‘normal life’.

I remember it taking six weeks for me to finally get through the induction system in the education department, only to realise I was well beyond the courses on offer, having already gained a degree-level qualification. I finally managed to get into some of the creative classes – textiles and then pottery – which I found very therapeutic, but I still felt I could be challenged further.

Following a careers advice meeting I discovered that I could do distance learning. I decided on an Events Management course and wrote to PET to ask for funding. Fortunately I was accepted and received my coursework in the post. It was really exciting but I was a little daunted by the amount of handwriting I faced – the odd hour on the computer in the library was not going to cut it here!

“I was really excited to find that I could study for a BA Hons and in a subject that I was passionate about”

 

Sometimes I found it hard to work: I was in a dorm so I had very little time when I didn’t have distractions. But I am pleased to say that I got a distinction for my course, so overcoming the trials of completing it were well rewarded!

“Coming out of prison with qualifications made me feel that I had put my sentence to good use”

 

Please see HACRO’s Getting Ex-offenders into Work.