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Daily Record
Daily Record
Mark McGivern

Scots charity provides for newly released prisoners in bid to stop cycle of addiction

Newly released prisoners claim the help of a mentoring agency as they prepare for freedom can be the difference between life and death.

Scotland’s prison system spits out cons at the end of their sentences who are ill-prepared for life and who immediately turn back to a life of drug addiction as a way of coping.

Many have ended up repeating their cycle of offending or dying from overdoses, usually involving combinations of heroin, cocaine, street drugs, painkillers or alcohol.

But the SISCO charity, which connects with prisoners on the inside and lends a helping hand as soon as they are released, believes every prison should have the benefit of recovery cafes and through-care on release to break the endless cycle of addiction and re-offending.

Sean McClelland, 31, was released from Barlinnie prison in Glasgow last week after his latest sentence for violence.

His story underlines the position argued by SISCO (Sustainable Interventions Supporting Change Outside), which runs Recovery Cafes at Barlinnie and Shotts prisons – that vital support should be given for prisoners battling addiction inside prison and when they get out.

Dad-of-two Sean said: “I’m not proud of what I’ve done in the past but I know that the addiction I have is a part of me and it’s a battle every day to get on top of it. I also know that I can beat it, but I can only do it with support and I’m in a good place right now because the guys at SISCO know what I’m going through and they are there for me 24/7.

“I honestly think that for some people getting out of jail it’s the difference between life and death.”

Sean’s latest sentence was six months for assaulting a man as he tried to steal drink from an off-licence.

He said: “This is behaviour that comes out of me when I’m using drink or drugs to get to oblivion because that’s what I’m seeking.

“The sober me doesn’t behave like that and I feel empathy for anyone I’ve harmed and remorse for what I’ve done.

“But it’s impossible to explain to anyone who doesn’t suffer from addiction what a grip it can take on you and that’s why you need people to support you, to be there to talk to and to lean on when you feel like using again.” Sean’s own experience saw him jailed in 2019 at Barlinnie, where drugs were freely available, and seeking help from Natalie Logan Maclean, the CEO of SISCO.

From that contact in the Recovery Cafe he weaned himself off drugs and was “transformed”.

But he was then transferred to Low Moss Prison, in Bishobriggs, which has no Recovery Cafe. He said: “I begged them not to take me away from the only support that I was getting because I knew what would happen.

“I got to Low Moss and the next thing I’m inevitably back on drugs because the temptation and urge is incredibly strong when you’re banged up in a cell to just get out of your head.

“If you don’t have anyone to talk you down, to remind you that you’re heading on the right path, it can be impossible to stay on track. Basically, every jail should have a Recovery cafe and people like Natalie there. I guarantee that it would help so many people get their lives back on track.”

Chris Reid, 27, has been through the same spiral of drug addiction and violent offending.

His life is still closely entwined with SISCO, several months after release from prison.

He said: “I can’t overstate how important my involvement with SISCO has been. I’m now looking at a home for myself, which is a massive step because it will be a place for me to have a proper family relationship my daughter. There’s a transformation in me that anyone can see and I know I can make it permanent this time.”

Natalie’s charity was recently awarded Scottish Government funding, but only around a third of the £100,000 they applied for.

She said: “It was disappointing because there is so much more we could do with better funding.

“There should be a SISCO in every prison to help people inside and to be there waiting for them on the outside to get them on their feet.”

SISCO this week moved into new premises in Ruchill, Glasgow, with rooms available for group sessions, counselling and training.

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