Anthony: "Qualifications got me out of trouble"
Anthony, 28, from Leeds, is currently employed in his dream job as an environmental consultant, after obtaining a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science from Nottingham Trent University.
He has been out of prison for four years and able to stay off drugs and away from his previous lifestyle because he was focused on his plans for the future, his family and his career. Anthony says studying degree modules whilst in prison with support from PET was crucial.
“When the judge sentenced me I thought my life was over but really it had just begun. I decided to use my time and with support from the education department and Prisoners' Education Trust I made the best of a bad situation,” he says.
When Anthony went to prison for dealing drugs he was already in his second year at the University of Leeds, which meant there weren’t any courses available in the prison for his level of education. Facing a four year sentence, he was desperate to continue with his degree but he needed funding to do this. With PET’s support Anthony was able to continue studying by undertaking a 60 credit module with the Open University and completing those credits helped him to obtain a place at Nottingham Trent.
He said: “This was instrumental in helping me get back into university on release. Studying in prison helped keep me focused, kept my mind active, I was able to maintain a standard of critical evaluation that is needed at degree level.
"I could have slipped back into what I was doing before, selling drugs, I had peaks of taking them myself and I didn’t realise I was addicted. Jail gave me a wake up call and I was fortunate to be able to use qualifications to get me out of trouble.”
When Anthony was moved to an open jail he was able to study in the community and see his family under the Release on Temporary License (ROTL) scheme. He said: “In the prison library there was nothing on environmental science, so being able to do research outside really helped me with my course.”
ROTL also gave Anthony the opportunity to reconnect with his family, who he hadn’t spent much time with as he was caught up in selling drugs. This was particularly important to him as he was able to spend time with his grandfather, who had cancer.
He said: “The day before I was due to be released I was woken up in the middle of the night by a guard because my grandad was in hospital. The Governor granted me emergency release on temporary licence and I was able to go and be with him and hold his hand while he was dying.
“It was sad but I’m so thankful for that and I think my life would have taken a different turn if I hadn’t been able to say goodbye to him. I would have felt bitter and angry with myself that I hadn’t had that time with him.”