The Bigger Picture

Thanks to the fantastic work I am involved in, through being a member of Revolving Doors Lived Experience Team and those we work with, I get to see the criminal justice system as a whole thing rather than a myriad of sections. Which, in a way, is just like reducing reoffending. I can’t speak for everyone but when I stopped reoffending, it was more than one thing as to why I now live a life, not just free of crime but also one where 99% of the time I am in control of me. I have an identity and the only labels I wear these days come from the high street. I have self-worth and I have purpose but most importantly I have a damn good life, some wonderful people around me and my loved ones by my side. However, to get to this point in my life wasn’t just a case of ceasing to commit crime and that would be it.

Imagine you have just purchased a jigsaw. You’re sat at the dining room table with the brand new unopened box. You slowly remove the selophane wrapper. You take a pair of scissors, snip the two small strips of selotape on either side of the box and lift off the lid. You empty out all the pieces and begin to separate the pieces that make up the outside frame of the picture. One thing I forgot to mention about the jigsaw is that there’s no picture to work from.

If you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, where do you start?

I would, probably like most, first put together the outside frame of the jigsaw. I bet most of us do that even when we have the picture to work from.

When going back to prison for the final time my experience was similar to the above. It was about putting all the pieces of my life together and creating something without first knowing what the bigger picture looked like. I knew what I wanted it to look like but that was in my imagination.

From day one of that sentence, with the walls of prison, and my cell, around me, the outside frame, I began to create my future.

Although my jigsaw wasn’t exactly a thousand pieces, I did have quite a few.

One of the things I needed to sort out was my substance use. This meant two-weeks of detox, being I wasn’t the heaviest of users prior to prison it wasn’t as bad as I had first feared. Ironically, I hate meds and strangely, I didn’t mind taking someone else’s, however, to get me right, I first had to make sure my mind was right, so went back onto my mental health medication, with a previso it was only a temporary thing. I had spent far too long with an addled mind as it was. Until I met good ol’ spice and I don’t mean the aftershave. I truly believed I could handle it. It’ll just be like having a spliff and I can chill out. How wrong was I? If you thought heroin and crack were addictive and ruined lives, fuck me, spice was summink else. I was halfway through my sentence, everything was going swimmingly and BAM! Here’s a lesson you ain’t yet learnt. Boy, did I learn. I lost a lot, including my telly as I copped five weeks of basic, but I could’ve have lost everything and although some of the pieces got jumbled up, my outside frame was still in tact and from then on, with a few minor hiccups along the way, which were more to do with my frustration at wanting to push on, I was fully focused on finishing off my jigsaw.

Reducing reoffending will not come down to having one’s health needs met, or having a better education or a better chance of getting a job. Having accommodation, by itself, will not reduce reoffending. Dealing with whatever mental health issues one may have will not reduce reoffending. Recovery from drugs or alcohol on their own, or together, will not reduce reoffending. Having an identity, self-worth and a purpose will. Especially, with the right support.


2 thoughts on “The Bigger Picture

  1. Thought provoking as always David, and it is as you say a complex puzzle, and the picture cannot be put together without all the parts being available. Enjoyed that very much.

    Liked by 1 person

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