Jacob Hill | I’m home
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I’m home

30 May I’m home

Sorry for the sound quality in the first 20 seconds.

I’m finally home after 294 days in prison.

I’d really like to start with an apology. There’s no denying it, I sold drugs at a music festival. I did it after seeing the opportunity when my business at the time, The Lazy Camper, was at many festivals and got in to some financial trouble. I thought I saw an easy way out. I was a coward. I chose the wrong path and to my family, my friends and the community that believed in me, I really am sorry.

I’m not looking for sympathy or pity; I am looking to share my story to warn others of the dangers of thinking you are invincible. I want to give an honest account of my fall from grace and hopefully show the rebuilding of my life, and also the life of those who I met during my time in custody.

The photo taken the night I was arrested.

On the 1st July 2015, I was taken to prison on a judge’s remand. I spent my first two nights in Armley Prison. On the 3rd July 2015, Recorder R Singh tried to find a way to give me a 2 year suspended sentence, meaning I would avoid custody. However, due to the quantity of drugs I had in my possession (153g Marijuana and 5.62g of MDMA) and the opportunities I have been presented with in life, he could not find a way to do this. He sentenced me to 28 months.

By British law I was to serve a maximum of 14 months in custody and 14 months on license. All prisoners in custody, except those in for violence, firearms, breach of license or prolific offending are offered 18 weeks on Home Detention Curfew (HDC) or ‘tag’ as it is commonly known. I did everything I could in terms of positive behavior to work towards this from day one.

Fortunately, I was granted my house arrest from the 18th April 2016 to 30th August 2016, where I am on curfew between 7.15pm and 7.15am every day of the week. Beyond 30th August 2016, I will fall under normal license conditions: I cannot handle a firearm (including fireworks) for five years, I must meet with my probation officer regularly and I cannot leave the United Kingdom until 31st October 2017.

During my time in custody, I saw some terrible acts of violence, drug abuse and immaturity. Yet in contrast, I saw kindness, loyalty and dedication from prisoners who chose the wrong path and were eager to repay their debt to society. I found that instead of your stereotypical, intimidating prisoner looking for a fight, the place was mainly filled with lads suffering from low self-esteem assuming society would reject them outright upon their release; re-offending seemed like their only option.

My job was with the St. Giles Trust, a charity supporting the resettlement of ex-offenders in to society. I would often induct new inmates in to the prison and help the staff ensure those due for release had their benefits or a job sorted and place to live.

Working for this amazing charity with fellow prisoners and supportive staff, who treated me like a human and not just a prisoner gave me a real sense of purpose and a reason to get out of bed each morning.

I counted down the days until my tag, but I never truly believed I would be released on time, or even at all; that place became my safety zone. I did not think I would come home. However, leaving that large gate with my ‘hold all’ in hand and seeing my mum and Nan that morning was the best feeling ever. I’ve never hugged them so hard. I was one step closer to repaying my debt to society and my family still loved me. Four weeks on and I still cannot believe I’m home. I have never been so grateful to be able to sit here at my computer, typing with a cup of Yorkshire Tea.

IMG_0722

Myself with the founders of Tempus Novo outside Armley Prison’s gates.

During my time in custody, I could not help but see so much potential in many of my fellow prisoners. I also saw how so many lacked opportunities on release to get a job and earn an honest, respectable living. I saw this as a major problem and with every spare few minutes I got, I started putting together a plan to create more opportunities for ex offenders to get in to employment.

With the support of governors, The Job Centre and the National Careers Service, I was able to write to organisations and even have Timpson’s visit the prison to give me some advice on how companies can hire more ex offenders. I had the pleasure of meeting Tempus Novo, a charity set up by prison officers focused only on finding ex offenders jobs; what an amazing cause. They’re extremely successful in the Yorkshire area, already placing 53 ex-offenders in to meaningful careers. I couldn’t believe that nobody was offering this on a national scale.

Tempus Novo gave me my first chance. After reading my business plan and meeting me in the prison, they have offered me a position volunteering with them to help place and support more ex offenders in to jobs.

Through the National Careers Service, I was then introduced to Rachel Mckimm of MyWorkHistory.com (a platform where you can upload your entire work history in to one place, and profiles can be tailor made for jobs and employers can find the right candidates more easily). Introducing this to prisons is the goal, and we could not get off the phone to each other. We had so much to discuss.

nigel_1

Nigel of Prestige Recruitment and myself on the canal by the new offices.

Rachel introduced me to her mentor, Nigel Stabler, founder of Prestige Recruitment. Nigel also gave me a chance after looking at my plan to support ex offenders in to employment.

Within one month of release, Nigel has not only given me a work placement at his company to gain some practical experience in the recruitment market; he has also invested in to my start up Offploy.com which will support organisations that are actively looking to hire ex offenders. We help to give everyone a second chance. I will be sure to share more information about my start up on this site once it’s a little bit more established.

I am just one lucky case. I had fears of walking down my high street and people closing their doors to me, but the community has been incredibly supportive. I would like to give everyone leaving prison that opportunity.

Mum

1 year and 8 months after my arrest and I am finally released from Prison where my mum and nan were waiting for me at the gate.

Most days I would write an in-depth journal of the events I saw, the feelings I felt and the stories I heard. I have just finished typing all of my handwritten scribbles up and found it extremely difficult, as it was like reliving the entire sentence over again. However, I want this to be read. I want my prison experience to be shared, not only to deter those who are thinking of committing a crime, but also to offer a clear and honest insight in to Britain’s prisons for all its positives and negatives. I would also like to take the readers on my transformative journey from a lost, confused individual, to learning how to survive in such a tough climate and come out the other side with a clear and positive focus. I will share why I am grateful for my prison experience.

I would like to end by thanking those who kept believing in me: The lads I met in prison, many of whom I lived with for hours per day, you kept me sane, you believed I could make a difference and you kept me smiling; The community, shop owners, business contacts, people in my local town and all the new people I have met since release, you have not written me off, you did not brand me, so many of you just gave me a hug or shook my hand. You made me feel welcomed to be back which is something I did not expect; My awesome friends from university, life and business, you would never do anything as stupid as I did but you kept writing and kept visiting – you helped me back in to society and kept me cheerful; My amazing family, Mum and Dad, my step Mum, my Nan and the entire family who visited often and wrote to me every week, you did not turn your back on me when I probably deserved it. Finally, to my wonderful girlfriend, Emily, who stood by me after I told her on our second date that I am looking at some jail time. I’ll be forever grateful to you.

I know how lucky I am and I will never take anything in my life for granted again. Freedom is precious, and I am not invincible.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

24 Comments
  • Callum
    Posted at 11:27h, 01 June Reply

    Great read. It’s brilliant to see that you haven’t lost your entrepreneurial spirit, especially in the most challenging of environments, where it can become easy for a young man to regress into becoming lost and introverted. It takes a lot of courage and humility to be so honest about something with such an undeserved stigma, but a stigma nonetheless. Wishing you all the success in your endeavours.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 12:34h, 01 June Reply

      Thank you Callum, It was a tough but deserved experience. I appreciate your comment, thank you.

  • Excon83
    Posted at 12:32h, 01 June Reply

    Hello, i too am an ex offender, i was released from HMP onley on 17dec 2015 after serving 15 months of my 2yr 9month sentence.
    I was also a St Giles Trust peer advisor in HMP Wandsworth. Well done for getting this far and i’m sure you’ll go a long way and achieve what you want to. I’ve subscribed and look forward to reading you blog and hearing about your experience in custody.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 12:35h, 01 June Reply

      Its nice to hear from a fellow ex-offender.Working for The St. Giles Trust was one of the best parts of my sentence, how did you find working for them? Thank you for subscribing!

      • Excon83
        Posted at 12:50h, 01 June Reply

        I found working for them one of the two most enjoyable times of my sentence, the other being a peer supporter for RAPt.
        I was unfortunately able to work for St Giles for a few months at Wandsworth due to them loosing the contract sadly.
        After St Giles, as I mentioned, I became a peer support worker for RAPt. Working for both charities gave me a kick in the arse to think about my behaviour and I decided to start a diploma in drugs, alcohol and solvent abuse counselling. I already had my QCF level 3 in advice and guidance from the short time I had with St Giles.
        My end goal is to become a drugs support worker.
        Unfortunately since being released and due to the complete lack of support in my area, and of course my own stupidity and weakness I have started falling back into my old cycle of life of taking drugs, sitting around doing sod all. My course has taken a back seat and generally slipped backwards.
        Reading your blog has given me a little bit of a reminder that I need to sort my sh*t out and that I can achieve my end goal though, so now I need to get my backside back in gear!

        • JacobHill
          Posted at 15:50h, 01 June Reply

          I must agree St. Giles are great fun and it actually feels rewarding to do in such a negative environment. I’m sorry to hear the support in your area has let you down. Where abouts is it? Perhaps I could speak to a few agencies I know on your behalf? Please feel free to email me: bookings@jacobhill.co.uk and I will speak to a few people. Your QCF level 3 should be a big help! I don’t event know you but can tell by your attitude you are driven and motivated to sort it out. Send me an email if you get a chance!

          • Excon83
            Posted at 23:31h, 02 June

            Wow thank you so much for your kind offer! I will drop you an email tomorrow morning with my details etc. Thanks again!

  • Pam Thornes
    Posted at 11:55h, 02 June Reply

    What an excellent read, humbling yet full of life and ready to taken on new challenges. Good luck Jacob in all that you do as you enter a new phase in your life, when every day is a blessing and every day to be lived and enjoyed.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 19:31h, 02 June Reply

      Hey Pam,

      Thank you so much, I will enjoy each day as it happens now!

  • SESS23
    Posted at 15:15h, 03 June Reply

    Jacob, I hope you make the most of this second chance. However, I am difficulty reconciling how you portrayed your life on social media when you were on bail – flying lessons, planning to move to Spain, public speaking etc – how have you changed as an individual, do you think? What are your thoughts on your behaviour during that time? I ask only as it appeared as though you had the world at your feet when you knew that wasn’t the case and it sounds a little Walter Mitty-ish.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 15:23h, 03 June Reply

      Hey Sessel, Thank you for your comment. Whilst I was on bail, I was able to really see what I wanted from my life. I really turned it around, I gained support in all the right areas. For those 11 months, I did not know if I was going to prison or not. I had to plan as if I wasn’t going to go, otherwise I could have just as easily given up on life. It was important I enjoyed every moment yet it felt horrendous not being able to share the fear I was feeling with people. It might not be how everyone would have reacted but its how I handled things. I will continue to pursue my dreams and my goals, I just hope I can help other ex-offenders realise their potential too. Thanks for your questions, they’ve certainly got me thinking. I hope that clears it up for you?

  • Keith
    Posted at 12:31h, 04 June Reply

    Congratulations on your bravery. it is rare that someone finds the strength to truly examine themselves and use introspection for a tool to grow externally for the benefit of all of those around them who have remained loyal, much less the wider society or sub-groups affected by the CJS. I have been where you were so I know what it takes to get to where you are now, You will get there.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 08:19h, 06 June Reply

      Hi Keith, wow that’s a strong message thank you. I think when you spend 14/15/16 hours a day alone with your thoughts you naturally become introspective. I got what I deserved and it might have been the right medicine I needed to sort my life out. Hopefully, it can all be used to support others in similar situations to us. Thank you for reaching out.

  • David Swales
    Posted at 19:27h, 04 June Reply

    Congratulations, Jacob.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 08:11h, 06 June Reply

      Thank you David, Joe gave me a lot of strength whilst inside.

  • Carol
    Posted at 07:42h, 06 June Reply

    Hi Jacob. What a lovely way to keep in touch.
    I’m so very pleased to see that you haven’t let prison defy who you are but have used it as a positive.
    I can’t wait to hear what the future holds for you. Take care.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 08:17h, 06 June Reply

      Hi Carol, Thank you for recognising that. You can go two ways with it – I could have just as easily chosen the wrong path (again) but I know I wanted to make something more of this experience – it had to be used for good.

      Please keep updated on the site, I will be constantly adding bits to it.

      Thank you for your message.

      Jacob

  • Steve
    Posted at 14:46h, 18 June Reply

    As CEO of Tempus Novo and a former prison officer it’s great to be helping you rebuild your life Jacob. Hopefully together we will help many more ex-offenders to move away from crime and in to sustainable employment.

    Steve
    http://www.tempusnovo.org

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 18:12h, 18 June Reply

      Thanks Steve, you are doing something incredibly worthwhile and unique. I believe in what you do so so much, and I am so proud to be a part of the Tempus Novo movement.

  • Maggie Moody
    Posted at 19:47h, 07 July Reply

    You are an inspiration. Good luck with achieving the positive future you deserve.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 08:49h, 09 July Reply

      Thanks Maggie, I am excited about the work we will do together 🙂

  • Jacob Hill | Day 1
    Posted at 17:00h, 20 July Reply

    […] A short overview of Jacob’s journey […]

  • RIchard Howarth
    Posted at 11:56h, 22 July Reply

    Hi, Jacob, Good to see you’re doing well. All the best for the future.

    • JacobHill
      Posted at 12:47h, 22 July Reply

      Thank you Richard, it is great to hear from you.

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