Francis Osei-Appiah: "Education will set you free"

‘At the start of a 9 year sentence in 2002 I attended a workshop in HMYOI Feltham run by Outside Chance, an organisation which supports prisoners in moving away from re-offending on release. The message of the workshop - that education will set you free - touched me to the core and planted the idea in my head that I should use my time in prison wisely to educate myself so that on release I had options.

Ian from Outside Chance advised me to speak to the prison’s Education Department about Prisoners' Education Trust who might be able to help me whilst I was in prison and in 2004 I wrote to PET to apply for funding towards an Open University course.

When I received the letter from PET agreeing to fund me it made me the happiest young man in the prison. It really helped my self-esteem, which had been at an all time low. It felt amazing that somebody was giving me a second chance and not just “shutting the door” on me and my future. I went on to complete the Open University course that PET funded, before graduating with an Honours Degree in Health and Social Care in 2010, just in time for my release from prison.

I left prison with the determination that I would use PET’s faith in me wisely and have never looked back. The sentence I served was my first time in prison and certainly my last! Thanks to PET’s investment in me, my degree got me a very good job in Social Care.  In just 18 months of joining my employers, I achieved back-to-back promotions from being a Support Worker to now being a Manager, responsible for 15 employees and 8 service-users, each with learning disabilities and highly complex needs.

Although I have a good standing in the community and I love my job, I wanted to do more, to give something back to my local community by helping to reduce offending in young people; my real passion. My life journey and my past experiences of the criminal justice system, coupled with my academic studies, gave me a solid base to take this knowledge into schools and youth groups, helping to reduce offending amongst young people and deter them from joining gangs as I had.  I worked hard, saved from my salary and founded a charity whose aims and objectives are helping young people to see a better way of living their lives, to learn from my mistakes and to do well at school.

People comment on how much I have achieved since leaving prison and there is no question in my mind that much of that achievement can be laid at the door of PET who, despite never meeting me, had faith in what I could achieve'.