From Harming to Serving Your Community

Published 04/03/2024
Author(s) Keith

A Series of Voices: Twenty Years on From “Making Good” – Entry 6

My name is Keith, and I was born raised and lived all my life in Dublin Ireland.

I had a very difficult up bringing with my father being absent very early on in my life, and I was sexually abused at a very early age by one of my uncles. My extended family was known in my area for its criminality and was feared in the area.

School was very difficult as the family’s reputation went before me, and I was marked down as a child to be wary of. My schooling was very much a hit and miss affair at best, and this led to me struggling with my literacy throughout my life. Numeracy was a different matter as drug dealing meant I became very proficient at numbers and weights and measures!

With not going to schools and running round the streets I became immersed in lots of anti-social behaviour and gained a very negative reputation. The local council built a large youth club because of the problems young people were causing. Me and my group of friends were barred from it as we were considered too troublesome!

I was quite industrious from a very early age and actually had a coal round from the age of twelve that brought in money. The coal round ended at thirteen as the country went smokeless. My uncle suggested I could make a lot of money dealing heroin at the age of thirteen. My uncle was also a heroin addict and gave me heroin to try. The thought of making excellent money and also the fact it was a significant person in my life was very enticing. This all led to me getting deeply involved with the drug scene in Dublin and families involved. I ended up spending twenty-eight years in prison. I consider it a pity people only saw the bad in me and never saw the hurt I was going through.

Today the most important people in my life are my daughter grandchild and mother. In all my sentences I was only out for my daughter’s birthday on four occasions. When I first went to prison at fifteen (I was put into an adult prison) lots of my extended family where there and other people I knew from the local crime families. I felt very relaxed and basically quite at home there! Prison through all those years had no effect on me and I could cope no problem at all. I became heavily involved in drug dealing and just didn’t care about the damage I was doing to people as I had been involved since a very early age. Whenever I was committing crimes, I just always thought I would never get caught which looking back obviously was not the case!

I got to a point where I was just absolutely fed up with a life in and out of prison as I was getting older, and the prison population was getting younger, and they seemed to behave like big soft kids.

I heard from one of the family about Victory Outreach in Liverpool, a Christian rehabilitation unit. I spoke to the pastor who invited me over, eleven months ago, and it has completely turned my life around. Today I am a Christian and god has shown me the way, I don’t drink, smoke, use drugs or commit any type of crime.

After ten months I recently graduated and the service was held in the church, my mother, daughter, and grandchild came over from Ireland and it was the proudest day of my life. I stood there and said my two-year-old Granddaughter would grow up knowing nothing about my past and will only see the good person standing before them. My Mother got up and said she has finally got her son back. It also surrounded me with people who I know have my best interests at heart and helping them gives me a huge lift. I also started volunteering with the Choose Life project, going into schools and training Police Officers through delivering my life story, was a real thrill.

I know I have a long way to go to reach my goals, but I am up and about everyday keeping myself busy. I have recently booked onto a literacy and numeracy courses at the local college, and I am very keen to improve my education after having my education destroyed by my upbringing.

Prison was a very easy option for me as I had spent so many years in there, readjusting to the community was hard, but I knew if I didn’t change, I would have ended up dying with the lifestyle I had. As stated, I had made a decision, my life needed to change. I had gone from being quite high up in the drug dealing fraternity to getting a serious habit and basically being on the street, my life was a total mess. I made the decision to get away from the chaos of Dublin and move to Liverpool and Victory Outreach and found Jesus. I seriously have not looked back since, I feel a new man with hope and direction in my life.

Later the Pastor asked me if I would like to go on the Choose Life course. I started with Choose Life project in November 2022 completed the 10-day employability course and since then I have delivered addiction education to ten schools, three colleges, one Pupil referral unit and three police forces. Receiving positive feedback from young people and professionals gives me a huge lift, and interacting with teachers and police officers in a very positive way is amazing because these were people who previously I had such negative experiences with the criminal justice system.

This and the previous Entry have been from the Choosen Life Project

Further information can be found here:

Jolley, M. and Nixon, S. (2023) ‘“I wouldn’t be where I was now” – Evaluation of the Choose Life project Liverpool’. Unpublished Report, pp.1-58. [Online] [Accessed on 15 September 2023]’I_wouldn’t_be_where_I_am_now_if_it_wasn’t_for_Choose_Life’_An_Evaluation_of_Volunteers’_perspectives_on_how_Choose_Life_supports_recovery_and_desistance