Meet Laura

Meet Laura

Life was grim before my arrest.

It was a dark place where I was trapped in a whirlwind of lies, deceit and abuse.

Endless times i prayed for a way out, but just didn't know how to achieve this. I was helpless having distanced myself from my friends and family. I was an embarrassment. I had no confidence and I scraped myself through each day ignoring the past and the then present.

My arrest came as a shock, a horrible court case and then an initial sentence at one of the most notorious women's estate prisons in England. This was an eye opener. I was amongst people who liked the prison community life, they shared banter with their fellow prisoners, shared stories on how whatever their present life was, was humouring them, they shared stories on how they managed to ' get high in their cell the night before smoking or ingesting anything they could get their hands on.

This was not for me.

I was reassured by my case worker that I'd only be kept here a few weeks and that i should apply to be released into an open prison. I preyed and cried every night, hoping my mum would pull through this ordeal. This was terrifying. I was soon sent to East Sutton Park.

God answering my prayers. A place where women could rehabilitate, restructure their lives and work in resettling back into everyday life. I remember getting out the van at the gates to esp to a team of happy looking officers. I could see a farm, blue skies an open space. I was very very grateful. My time here was going to be a few months andIt wasn't long before I'd enrolled myself in every programme possible to reform myself and better my chances on release.

One of the posters I came across was for PenOptical. To train and learn to be an optical assistant. I had spent 2 weeks in the class A prison where we were limited to minimal natural light and I could feel my eyes suffering.

So what was PenOptical? It was a fantastic opportunity to work hard, challenge myself and gain skills which would help launch me into a new career path upon release from esp. My interview with the directors was successful and I was offered a place on this training programme. I knew at this point there was no turning back and once you've hit rock bottom, the only place you can go is up.

I remember reading the prospectus and thinking I wanted to be some sort of optician. I wanted to help people who were struggling with their vision. The course was immense and intense. I had The option to kick myself into full speed and cram it all in in a much shorter timescale than usual. But I was committed. My life changed from the moment I started with PenOptical. I had focus and meaning. I also had confidence and believed in myself.

Now, having passed the PenOptical programme with high pass marks, I'm working full time in a local optician and studying to qualify towards becoming a contact lens optician. I wake up each morning feeling fresh, light on my feet, clear-minded and very very grateful.

Anyone can make the change, you just have to commit yourself to do this for yourself, no one is going to do it for you...