Laurence was in a harmful cycle of problem substance use and time spent in prison. Prompted by lockdown 2020 and turning 40, Laurence began to reevaluate his life and decided it was time he create positive change.
He was referred to our Living Wild programme, designed for people with experience in the criminal justice system who are ready to move away from a life of crime. The programme offers a combination of community-based outreach support wrapped around a wilderness journey in the highlands of Scotland.
Through intensive learning and personal development individuals build new skills, boost confidence, motivation, and aspirations. The programme offers the chance to reflect on complex life circumstances and the patterns of behaviour that lead to people like Laurence to reoffend upon leaving prison.
During his time with Venture Trust, he reignited his passion for the outdoors and reflected on patterns of behaviour that caused him to reoffend.
“The scenery in the outdoors helped be to think and be honest with myself. It got me to ask myself what I really wanted from life. I started to think about how I wanted to be a better person. I call it ‘recovery with nature’. I went through every emotion on the wilderness journey. I laughed and I even had a cry which I hadn’t done in a long time. That felt like a big release.
“Closing ourselves in isn’t good for the soul or our heads. Especially when you’ve been in prison, the outdoors feels like freedom. It gave me a feeling of belonging. I thought to myself ‘why have I not done this sooner?”
Laurence’s situation is not unique. When he came to Venture Trust he was on a Drug Treatment and Testing Order (DTTO). Statistically, in Scotland those given a DTTO have the highest average number of reconvictions per offender and the highest reconviction rate of any disposal. This shows the difficulty people experience when leaving prison to stop cycles of offending, particularly when their offence is related to substance use.
“I was a product of my environment. I felt like I had to be a tough guy. It started when I was 14 or 15 and hung around a lot of rough guys. I know a lot of people that have overdosed, and I’ve nearly overdosed myself a few times, but I got lucky. I’m lucky to be here and to not be another statistic.”
At Venture Trust we believe addressing the underlying issues and pressures behind offending behaviour is the best way to reduce offending, support rehabilitation and create safer Scottish communities. A short prison sentence does not allow individuals to get the support they need to overcome the factors driving them to offend.
“Being in prison hardens your soul – it made me change for the worst.”
Laurence is now focussed and committed to creating positive change in his life. He is setting and achieving goals which give him the chance to get out his comfort zone and create a sense of achievement.
“When I used to think of ‘goals’ I pictured something not fun. I thought achievements were just about education. But once I learned about the hierarchy of needs, having fun is a big part of that. Now I focus on what gives me joy – which is planning outdoor trips and having things to look forward to.”
Laurence has filled his week with regular healthy activities which keep him busy and moving forward with his goals, such as spending time in the outdoors, going on camping trips, as well as taking computer classes and cooking classes.
“One of the staff at Venture Trust said that it’s like I’m emptying a bucket of rubbish, which was all the negative influences in my life, and now I’m filling it up with good things that make me happy.
“The staff at Venture Trust restored my faith in humanity and gave me the confidence to make changes in my life. I used to think that people couldn’t change, but now I do. Everybody deserves a second chance.”