‘Mine wasn’t a bad childhood but selling drugs was the norm in my community: it was everywhere, it was the air we breathed. I’d walk out of my house in the morning and find a crackhead asleep on the stairs. Violence, junkies, fights all around.
I was only 11 when I started holding drugs—too young to know the risks—but I grew up knowing what doors to knock on, who to go and see, whose numbers to have.
People only do what they know, and that depends on where you grow: I wasn’t going to wake up one morning and be able to become a doctor with nobody to show me how to even begin.
And everyone in my community who was working was doing low-paid, dead-end jobs, struggling: I never saw the point.
It was only through Switchback that I learned that crime is not the easiest culture, that crime is un-normal. I know it’s not a question of if you’re going to get caught, it’s when. I know that the risks massively outweigh the benefits. And I’ve been shown a different route.
”I never had someone like that in my life before: she helps me find the answers for myself.
I met my Switchback Mentor Monique the second time I was inside. I never had someone like that in my life before: she helps me find the answers for myself. My parents didn’t have the best education — there are things I could ask them and they’d struggle to find the answer — and I was never close to any teachers: I dropped out of school young and in a classroom it’s 35 students to one.
With Monique, we always have one-on-one time. I can ring her after-hours. She might not always have the answer straightaway, but she’ll always get back to you, or say “Pop up if you want to talk about it.” Having that one person means so much, helps so much. She changed my life. Even though I finished with Switchback two years ago I still ring her up and she still involves me in things. We’re close, even today.
At some rehabilitation places they don’t really care where you’re going so long as you’re out of there. All they want to do is move you on, get paid. But change like that won’t stick. I got such a bad job through one of those agencies after my first sentence, that I started dealing again to tide me over and that’s why I ended up back inside.
But with Switchback you get proper help, not a rush service. I told Monique I wanted to work straightaway, would do 100 hours a week, just wanted the money. But she helped me slow down and make the right choices: find work that’s a bit better paid, a bit more structure, a few more days — and that’s meant I haven’t wanted to re-offend, that meant I haven’t been back to jail.
Switchback taught me patience and understanding. And that is what changed my life. It was only because I trusted Monique that I really listened to her when she explained all that to me. If I hadn’t? I don’t know where I’d be. Probably I would have gone into some crusty, dead-end job where there would have been no career progression, and most likely I’d be back in prison again. Instead, I’ve met so many people, seen a whole different world.
It’s the same for all the other people Switchback has helped over the past 10 years. Switchback are truly out there changing people’s lives.
I intend to keep these positives going: I plan to buy a house, do it positively, show that to my children. And I plan to change the world that way.’