Scotland

'Offenders need positive role models'

American-style food truck in Glasgow
Image caption Offenders must be free from drugs and alcohol to get onto the training programme

After spending almost two decades in and out of prison for drugs and violence offences, Eddie has turned his life around and now works as a mentor to young offenders.

"I was involved in crime from a young age and I got involved in more violence as I got older," he told BBC Scotland.

"Because of the lifestyle I was living, I ended up spending 18 and a half years behind bars."

Image caption Eddie says he got into crime at a young age because he had no role models

Eddie says he got involved in crime at an early age because that was what everyone he looked up to was doing.

"I lost my dad, so I lost my male role model at a young age, and I just got sidetracked with people who were in that type of lifestyle," he says.

"The lifestyle I was involved in with, selling drugs, involved a lot of violence because at that level of crime losing face is too high a price to pay.

"Looking back it was really dark times in my life but I never realised the impact my behaviour was having on society as a whole."

Image caption Street food prepared by ex-offenders includes buttermilk fried chicken, Korean beef chilli and Asian BBQ-style ribs

For years Eddie went in and out of prison without ever considering that he might be able to change.

"I just thought that was the lifestyle I lived," he says.

"It was actually all I knew."

However, halfway through his last prison sentence he started missing his family and his freedom.

"I thought there must be a better way of life that I can live," Eddie says.

Food truck

On his release he got support and kicked the drugs that had been a feature of his life for 20 years.

Eddie is now involved with social enterprise Braveheart Industries (BHI), which operates an airstream-style food truck providing training, mentoring and support for offenders.

It is supported by Police Scotland's Violence Reduction Unit (VRU).

Eddie mentors 10 men and women, providing a "positive role model" in the same way as the group that helped him on his release.

"They listen to what I'm telling them because it comes from someone who has had the same experiences as them," he says.

"We try to build their self-esteem and their confidence, give them a bit of routine and discipline and try to create some awareness in them about how their behaviour is impacting on society."

'Grow emotionally'

Eddie says that before the organisation takes anyone on they must commit to be free of drugs and alcohol.

"The reason is because nine out of 10 guys I have dealt with, their offences are committed while under the influence of drugs and alcohol," he says.

"The rational part of the brain is not working when they are taking some sort of mind-altering substance."

Eddie says the good news is that there are men and women recovering from being stuck in that lifestyle.

"I see it every day," he says.

"I am working with a boy now who has just had a baby. I've never seen a man grow emotionally in such a short period of time.

"What that guy is now is a positive role model for his kid and that's what he lacked."

He said projects like his and others offered a way out "if they are ready to do some real work".

He says: "Coming from that level of chaos to where you need to be to recreate your life is really difficult but my own experience is it can be done."

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