Stacie Bell, 32, an offender support team worker at the New Wortley Community Centre, near HMP Armely in Leeds helps offenders coming out of prison.
Stacie helps them find stability at a time when many former prisoners are at their most vulnerable and most likely to fall back into their former offending habit. And Stacie knows what she is talking about.
Her service users trust and respect her because Stacie is an ex-offender.
As a teenager Stacie had a history of crime involving a number of driving offences, theft, shop-lifting and dealing in drugs. “I was off the rails,” says Stacie, “life at home was fairly unstable with my mum and dad. Dad was in and out of prison. I taught myself to drive aged about 13 and used to drive around without a license or insurance. I got caught it didn’t stop me
“I left school when I was 14 when I got pregnant with my son – he’s now 17 and working as a trackman on the railways.
“I volunteered because I always wanted to do this sort of work and Katie has been really supportive in helping me along the way. I think the service users trust me and listen to me because they know have had the same experiences as them – they can talk to me. I love what I am doing now”
“The wake-up call came for me in 2004 when I was sent to New Hall prison. I was sentenced to three months and ended up doing six weeks. I was getting older and realised I had to look after my son. I’d been to jail and didn’t want to back again. I really turned it around.”
Stacie met Katie Leon, volunteer co-ordinator at West Yorkshire CRC, who introduced her to the Right Direction volunteer service in which ex-offenders who have recently completed probation help to motivate service users to change. All volunteers undertake 60-hours of learning to qualify to be a volunteer in probation.
Stacie was a peer-mentor volunteer for more than two years at the CRC’s York Road office in Leeds and was eventually employed part-time in her present role at New Wortley. “I am currently working 16 hours a week but that will shortly go up to 30 hours,” says Stacie.
“I volunteered because I always wanted to do this sort of work and Katie has been really supportive in helping me along the way.
“I think the service users trust me and listen to me because they know have had the same experiences as them – they can talk to me. I love what I am doing now.”