A LETHAL INJECTION OF HOPE
I am in no doubt I would be dead right now and I am not saying this for affect I truly believe if I didn’t get that intervention on the 28th of January 2017 I wouldn’t be here, My kids wouldn’t have a responsible sober Father. However with a lethal injection HOPE and the amazing people unlocking my potential and providing me with opportunities to change my life, I see a bright future for myself an
by Callum Hutchinson, Glasgow
My life for a long time had a lethal absence of hope, I seen a future that would have consisted of life in prison or dead before I was 30. I was not alone in this I would walk through the gates of prison and see each prisoner on a journey of adversity, pain and early death. The visit room was littered with family and friends all hoping that their loved ones would be released and change their ways and create a good life for themselves sounds simple right?
I grew up in Glasgow’s East End when we had the label of “Murder Capital” and gang violence was at its very peak. Territorial gangs ruled the city’s streets with recreational violence. Growing up in this environment as a young man was challenging as fear dominated your everyday life. If you had to run the gauntlet through other housing schemes to attend school or appointments, you were literally putting your life on the line. The city was broken up into Gang territories and you did not even need to be a member of a gang to fall victim of a violent attack you just had to be born in another postcode. Navigating this environment left you with two options stay well clear and try and keep yourself safe as best you could or flee towards the “safety” of a gang safety in numbers and all that.
Something I always stress to people is young people don’t just wake up in the morning and join a gang they are usually fleeing something and find acceptance in the form of a gang, fear and a lack of hope and opportunity are the main drivers in my experience and many ex-gang members I have mentored. I picked the latter, being a member of gang gave me a sense of belonging and acceptance, the reality set in of what I was attached to and that was a group of mostly young males who would have running battles with other young males from other housing schemes with the intention of killing one and other. Society branded us NEDs (Non educated Delinquents) really, we were young boys who had a lethal absence of hope and positive role models in our life. Some of us did, not all of us came from broken homes or had suffered adversity in the family home however when you walked out into the community trauma dripped from the lampposts, poverty ravished communities.
This life caused me huge amounts of physical and mental pain, I would often be admitted to Glasgow’s royal infirmary with knife wounds as one of Glasgow many gang fight casualties or find myself Infront of a Judge at Glasgow sheriff court for being the perpetrator. Violence was very much normalised to myself from a very young age, you would use it as way to gain respect and ultimately as a way to protect yourself, bravado and fear are a deadly mixture for our young people especially if we throw a knife into the mix which I carried near enough everyday and the reason was quite simply fear.
By my teenage years I had been to HMPYOI Polmont for violence and very quickly I had resigned myself to the fact this would be my life I never seen any hope of being a responsible Father to my son who I had let down for years I couldn’t imagine a life that didn’t involve violence I had no hope! This was my life for more than a decade, drinking alcohol as a my solution to deal with it, by 20 I had been diagnosed with PTSD and I self-medicated this with alcohol and drugs and I had graduated to adult prison. I have a body that is littered with scars from past gang fights and violent attacks those physical scars heal
However the mental scars are a different battle all together, you don’t live a life of gangs and violence and come away from it mentally intact you have guilt, shame and remorse you have a body that keeps the score and a mind that tells you everyday you leave your house “you could die today” ultimately giving you a traumatised individual.
The Scottish Violence Reduction Unit was set up in 2005 to tackle violence in all its forms but the main focus in the beginning was to make Glasgow’s housing schemes safer and address the gang violence, they kicked off with their gang programme called community initiative to reduce violence or CIRV as it would become knowing. This is a gang intervention programme which consisted of lots of partners like housing, education, social work and the police where they would get the gang members to attend “Call Ins” at Glasgow Sherriff court and quite simply lay out an ultimatum to them, if you continue to be involved in Gang violence you will be sent to prison for a long period of time, your families tenancy will be at risk or take the other option to get out of the gang lifestyle with support from the CIRV team, the support consisted of a mentor, employability opportunities, support with housing issues and an opportunity of Recovery in all its forms. As the Gang members sat in Glasgow Sherriff court and listened to the chief constable of the Police lay out the consequences if they didn’t stop, they heard the tragic story of a mother who had lost her son to gang violence and they listened to the ex-gang member sharing his experience of how he spent numerous years in prison and if he could back a change it he would. Not surprisingly the majority of the gang members from Glasgow’s east end signed up to CIRV and took the opportunity to put down their knifes and stop warring with one another and head for the exit ramp out of that life, why? Because they had been given a lethal injection of hope.
Unfortunately for me I was in prison when this initiative was running, my journey was to last a few years longer progressing to other levels of crime and criminality, I was at a place in my life where I didn’t want to live but I didn’t want to die but I could see no hope for a good future for myself. On January the 28th 2017 I was to be stabbed 9 times outside my front door, I was rushed to hospital the amazing doctors and nurses kept me alive again, that night was to change the whole direction of my life because another programme from the Violence Reduction Unit and Medics Against Violence was set up and it is called the Navigator service which is a Hospital based intervention team which supports people who are caught up in a cycle of violence and they see no way out. The Navigators do their life changing interventions right there and then in the hospital where its more often than not a reachable moment for most people and it was for me. Two Navigators asked me I would like some help to get out of that lifestyle with support and I said yes because I couldn’t go on much longer the mental and physical pain had taken its toll and I was done. The Navigators supported me to an exit ramp where they helped me to get engaged with Recovery for my alcohol and introduced me to loads of different opportunities. I was to achieve 3 months sober and was told about a special place called Street & Arrow. Street & Arrow is an employability programme for people with convictions where they can work within the social enterprise gain vocational experience but also get support in the form of a lived experience mentor and weekly counselling sessions along with trauma informed group work, at the end of the 12 month they are moved on to full time employment in the field of their choice.
This is also a programme that was set up in 2016 from the VRU. Street & Arrow pay their trainees the living wage also this bringing down the vulnerability to live dishonestly and provide honestly for their families, something I had never done before. This appealed to me massively however I was then told that the VRU is ran by a number of police officers normally as project leads. Now I had came from a life where police only wanted to lock me up, it was ingrained into my belief system from an early age that the police were the enemy, they certainly didn’t help people like me. Yet here I was being told that if I wanted to participate in this programme I would go and meet a Police inspector who didn’t want any information or intel from me he actually just wanted to help me change my life. I could not believe it and I had to go and see if this was genuine. I went into the VRU building in the city centre I was very nervous and sceptical to say the least, I was expecting to meet a police officer in full uniform and for him to record the full interview as this is what I was used too. However, I was welcomed at the door with a man in plain clothes who introduced himself as the Project Lead for Street & Arrow he told me he wasn’t interested in my past as far as he was concerned that could stay there he was more interested in what I wanted for my future. I told him I just wanted to be a sober responsible Father and partner to my family. He told me I could start on Monday! I left that interview and got very emotional because for the first time in my life I felt that someone believed in me regardless of my past and was willing to give me an opportunity to change my life but also my kids life too. I felt a lethal injection of hope.
I went through that programme graduating after 12 months, celebrated a full year of sobriety and could see a future for myself that didn’t involve prison or death. I had a strong desire to help others the way I had been helped on to the exit ramp, use my experience as hope for others of what could be achieved, I discussed this with the project lead at the time and he told me he wanted me to be a mentor on the Street & Arrow programme. I was a trainee mentor and then graduated to become a Mentor and then in time to become the Lead Mentor on that programme helping others change their life. In 2019 I won a community champion award for the work I had done with ex-offenders.
I am now a Development officer for the violence reduction unit and Braveheart Industries helping to develop interventions for young people on the cusp of the criminal justice system, creating exit ramps for people to get out of a cycle of violence. Supporting community organisations on ways they can prevent violence, because violence is not inevitable violence is absolutely preventable.
I certainly have a life beyond my wildest dreams today, I am coming up for 4 years sober, I have an amazing job where I get to work with amazing human beings and provide hope for those who are on the margins of society and prove to society that change is possible. I have 2 beautiful kids and a partner who has always believed in me and supports me in everything I do. I have peace in my life today I am a responsible member of society. I could never have dreamed of this being my life my duty now is to help other Callums out there who see no hope for a future.
Providing hope is one thing however marry it up with opportunity and you have the perfect recipe for CHANGE.
I am in no doubt I would be dead right now and I am not saying this for affect I truly believe if I didn’t get that intervention on the 28th of January 2017 I wouldn’t be here, My kids wouldn’t have a responsible sober Father. However with a lethal injection HOPE and the amazing people unlocking my potential and providing me with opportunities to change my life, I see a bright future for myself and family today.
BE A HOPE DEALER!