Picture – Simon Annand

HACRO have been searching for inspirational stories from ex-offenders. Michael Baloguns story is about how he overcame his past and looked to the future:

By Jon Kelly BBC World Service https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43560517

He spent his early life in and out of jail – then Michael Balogun decided he wanted to study to become an actor at one of the world’s most prestigious drama schools. Could this seemingly impossible ambition be the catalyst he needed to turn his life around?

In 2017 he graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada), one of the world’s most prestigious drama schools.

Balogun grew up in Kennington, south London, in an unusual home. “My dad wasn’t around, my mum was going on holiday a lot,  and it was me and my sisters in the house, alone,” he says.

The most traumatic period of his childhood began when he was aged about seven or eight, with his mother’s arrest. She was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but somehow the authorities didn’t realise that Michael and his two sisters had been left alone in the house to fend for themselves.

His older sister took care of the housework and sorting out the family’s benefits. “We kind of just kept it how it was whenever mum went on holiday.”

Eventually the authorities worked out his mother was in prison. Social services were alerted. Balogun and his sisters were taken into care and then went to live with an aunt.

After this, he started to go off the rails.

“I started off stealing, then I started Mugging people.” From there he progressed to selling cannabis at school, and by the time he was 16 or 17 he was dealing heroin and crack cocaine on the streets of Kentish Town, north London and Portsmouth.

When he received his first prison sentence – three-and-a half years for possession of heroin with intent to supply – jail felt like a rite of passage. But he still found the experience deeply traumatic.

He was jailed again soon after his release.

Please click on link to read more of Michael’s story: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-43560517

Please see HACRO’s getting ex-offenders into work:  https://hacro.org.uk/getting-ex-offenders-into-work/