“Sherie L opens up with Release Scotland about transforming her life through the Fresh Start initiative by Greggs”
“Before I came into custody I was living at home with my mum, dad and little brother. I had a job, working part-time as a carer looking after the elderly and also in a bar. Life was good and I had a great group of friends and an active social life.
One night in a flash, while walking home I made a terrible mistake that changed everything. That was the beginning of the nightmare, I went to my local police station and handed myself in. I was charged and went straight on remand. My life stopped there and I found myself 24 and in prison.
I moved through the prison system and eventually, after a period of ten months, settled at HMP Drake Hall in Staffordshire. I was an absolute mess, I felt confused and I had lost everything and hurt everyone that I cared about. I couldn’t stop thinking about the people that I used to care for in my old job, they trusted me, and I had let them down. I just felt incredibly guilty.
Once I had settled in the prison I decided that I had to stop hating myself and try and do something positive. Something worthwhile had to come out of this and I had to focus on making my life better and making the people I care about proud of me again.
I put myself forward for all of the courses that I could including Maths, English, nails, hair & beauty, customer service and employability. I then successfully gained my open status and then began working towards being on the open unit which would enable me to find employment.
Employment was an important step for me. I felt like I had lost everything because of my mistake and finding a job would enable me to give something back to my community. I didn’t want to feel worthless any longer, instead I wanted to build my confidence and focus on the future.
My officer in the prison was brilliant; he didn’t give up on me and could see I wanted to make my situation better and helped me to find a job by introducing me to Greggs. I was already aware that Greggs worked with the women at HMP Drake Hall and I had seen posters and leaflets around the prison about their programme called ‘Fresh Start’. My officer explained to me that Greggs would support me with employment when I leave prison and go home and I started to feel more positive about the future.
I had an interview for a placement which went really well and I was offered a placement to see how I got along in a local shop. After the placement, I became a permanent employee working across a couple of local shops. I felt amazing – like I was on top of the world and finally, everything started to feel normal at last.
I love working at Greggs, especially the customer service side of things and the best bit is that everyone is just so welcoming. My family were so proud of me and that made me feel really proud too - I had achieved something when I didn’t think I could.
I am now approaching my release date and although I am very nervous, if I hadn’t had this opportunity lined up I would have come in with nothing and left with nothing. I am leaving prison with a home to go to and a job to support myself. Finally, I am proud of me.
So the next steps for me? I love my role and I know that in time I could become a Manager. When I was younger, I was always told “Sherie will never do that!” and that’s all I have ever had off people. I don’t want to hear that anymore, sometimes I might struggle and it might take me a while to achieve something, but I am not being told that I can’t do something again because I can and, I know I will.”