Case Study

From drug user to movie producer

26 Feb 2024
A troubled teen who left home at 16, was pregnant at 19, developed a drug habit that became a cocaine addiction resulting in a string of jail sentences, and then turned her life around... AnneMarie’s story sounds like a film script.

Now, with her troubles fading behind her, she has used that tough past to help produce a film she hopes has a happy ending for those who watch it.

As a volunteer peer mentor with the Ingeus justice division in Hull, AnneMarie was part of a team tasked with creating a video to showcase how Ingeus supports former offenders.

Shown to Probation staff in West Yorkshire & Humberside, the nine-minute First Steps video was largely written by and stars peer mentors and rehabilitation service users. It tells the story of a former offender who, with support from Ingeus volunteers, is starting to get his life back on track after release from prison

AnneMarie says: “The ideas came from us, we had so much input and I’m pleased with the result – it’s genuinely moving and dispels some of the myths about what to expect when you are starting your rehabilitation journey.”

Her first contact with the Ingeus justice team came after she left prison for the last time – the latest in a 20-year history of custodial sentences mainly involving shoplifting to fund her drug habit.

As part of its Commissioned Rehabilitative Services contract Ingeus supported her to get an official ID and suggested she might like to volunteer as a peer mentor, bringing her experience to help others trying to rebuild their lives.

She says: “At that time I knew I was done with drugs but didn’t know how to get out of it. I knew how to survive on the streets and how to survive in prison but I didn’t have a clue how to turn my life around.

“Since I did the peer mentor training I haven’t looked back. I am still going through the transition from the life that I had to the life that I want, but I feel like I’m going in the right direction.

“I was a vulnerable adult for many years with no positive influences around me. It has been a long process to build back my self-confidence and that’s what peer mentoring has done for me.”

AnneMarie has undertaken Ingeus training covering psychosis, handling stress and burn out, and goal-setting. She has participated in events, helped with the training of new peer mentors and joined Ingeus teams talking to inmates on the recovery wing at HMP Humber about hope and how change is possible.

She adds: “I find discussing my own past makes former offenders more likely to open up and know that we understand them.

“Even the fact peer mentors speak the same language as them, the same kind of jail lingo, you see that lightbulb moment when they get the fact that we get them. I love it. It shows that change is possible, no matter what age you are or if you think it can’t happen, it can.

“I tell the lads that what Ingeus is offering them is not just chat, we are changing lives here. Lots of people are really smashing it with Ingeus jobs after starting out as peer mentors. I think Ingeus is a brilliant organisation.”

Watch First Steps.

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