story 25 March 2024

Young Offender Tom* started DofE to spend time out of his cell but learned much more

A young offender in a library holding an open book. His face is not in the frame.

Young Offender, Tom* initially started his DofE as a way to spend time out of his cell, and hoped it would equip him with more skills and experience to put on his CV. However, he soon discovered that his Award taught him so much more; inspiring him to learn how to read and giving him the confidence and a real incentive to turn his life around. Read his story.

“I first heard about the DofE when I first came to HMP Rochester, I wanted to take part to keep me out of my cell a bit longer and I knew it looked good on your CV, but then I really started to enjoy it. Going to the gym kept me active and reading for my Skills section helped me with my dyslexia. At first I was losing interest in books because I was only reading things with pictures but when I started reading proper story books I was getting into the story more and made me want to continue reading. Although I already knew how to read I wasn’t that good because of my dyslexia, I feel proud of myself for reading bigger books and it helps in the long run.

“For my Volunteering section I did lots of painting. From the gym, to toilets and old walls. During this time I got closer with the gym governors and I was able to see other wings which meant I could socialise more with other people, because if you don’t do new activities in here, you don’t get the opportunity to meet new people. Volunteering has allowed me to go from not feeling productive to painting all day, every day so it was a big change but it was good.

“When we did our Expedition section we stayed in the prison and went down to the field with compasses to learn coordinates, at first it was hard to pick up but I got the hang of it. When we were camping I could lie down and look at the stars, you don’t get to do that often in here as you’re always back inside before it’s dark.

“Socialising with the other prisoners, being able to spend more time out of my cell and being more active are the things I’ve enjoyed the most about my DofE. My Award has helped to build my confidence, team-building skills and map reading! I still want to go back to work scaffolding but I just don’t want to do the stupid things that I was doing before that got me in here. I’ve learned to not be so hot-headed, to think before I do things and be more patient.”

*Name changed to protect identity.

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