A prisoner who got a chance to change, Kieran describes how his life was turned around
I got arrested for dealing drugs. I was sentenced to prison for two years and nine months for possession of cannabis with intent to supply.
Although I grew up going to church with my nan, as I got older, the company I was keeping was not good and I lost my connection with the Church. I had a foundation of faith in God, but I did not keep in touch with the Church.
I have got a daughter, and the main thing was that I was missing her and my family when I was inside. Prison is not a nice place to be, but you do get the space to think about your direction. I used the time to reflect, but I don’t know if everyone does.
While I was inside, I attended chapel services on Sunday. Every last Sunday of the month, members from an outside church came in. I used to get a really amazing feeling every time they played worship music. Every word that was said in the songs they played, and every word they preached, all made sense to me.
One guy speaking to us was an engineer. He said that a having a relationship with God is similar to connecting up a line to the source of electrical power. The voltage is so high you can’t get unconnected easily.
Another guy who spoke said they we can choose either to be a person who is in prison, or we can be a prisoner. They also brought in other people who used to be in prison who have been reformed since.
While serving my sentence, I was moved to a different establishment, and a preacher at the Sunday service there focused on the biblical character of Job. He taught us that God gives and takes away. He also explained what the Epiphany meant. That hit the nail on the head for me and made me realise that I had to turn my life around.
While I was in prison, I used the Angel Tree present-giving scheme – which I later found out was run by Prison Fellowship – to send a gift to my daughter. Other inmates had used it before and explained what it was to me, how it worked: That a family member on the outside would receive a present at Christmas or on Mother’s Day, addressed with a personal note. My daughter received a wooden doll with different clothes. When I got out of prison, I saw the present, together with the personal note I had written to her.
Since I have got out of prison, I have got involved in wrapping presents for the Angel Tree scheme from the outside. It’s weird that one minute you are filling out this form on this inside, because you know you want your loved ones to get a present, and now I’m on the other side.
When I was in prison, I did level one of a course in painting and decorating; when I came out of prison, I went to college and did level two and got qualified professionally.
The first year out of prison I offered to do painting and decorating for families and friends I know. Now I have got my own business and I have got two guys working with me. As well as the private clients, we also work with sub-contractors including a carpentry company, and we are doing really well.
After I came out of prison I went to a Prison Fellowship awareness event and I asked to say a few words about my journey. When I was there, I saw two people that I had met inside prison who I did not expect to see. They were two regular Prison Fellowship volunteers who had come in. I had no idea what Prison Fellowship was when I was inside, and to me, they were two regular people who came into the prison consistently. When I was looking around the venue as I was sharing my story, I was amazed that there were so many good people volunteering to help prisoners and their families.
Now I’m on the other side telling people about my experiences. I think it’s a one in a million chance – a really emotional experience.
Kieran – not his real name – is a former prisoner who works with Prison Fellowship
This article was published in the July/August 2014 issue of Reform.