“Don’t make mistakes we did" − inmates’ life lessons to pupils from behind bars

Two Birmingham men serving long jail terms for gun crime have spoken candidly about their miserable life behind bars − and are urging young people not to make the mistakes that led to them being locked up.

Daniel Martin and Daniel Mason agreed to be filmed at Oakwood Prison near Wolverhampton, and to share their stories with pupils in Birmingham schools.

They hope their raw account of prison life − and the events that led to them to be jailed − will help steer teenagers away from gang culture and crime.

Martin, aged 40 and from Handsworth, was handed an indefinite jail sentence in 2011 for gun possession, robbery and conspiracy to commit GBH. He doesn’t know if or when he will be released.

Mason, aged 36 from Northfield, has been behind bars for almost 10 years for his part in a drive-by shooting in Manchester in 2010.

He didn’t pull the trigger but, under what’s known as ‘joint enterprise’, was deemed equally culpable having driven the gunman from the West Midlands on the night of the shooting.

Birmingham Police Sergeant Helen Carver thanked both men for taking part in the project.

She added: “The videos will be shown in schools across Birmingham from this month; they will be shown in small workshops, alongside mentoring, with the aim being to encourage children to make good life choices.

“These are really powerful messages from people who know what it’s like to get drawn into gangs and crime… and the shocking, life-changing consequences."

In the videos both men dispel the myth that prison life is somehow ‘cushy’ and that inmates spend all day playing games consoles, shooting pool and having fun.

Daniel Mason said: “I was in a Cat A prison with guys who are dong 20, 30, even 40 years. They were the baddest boys but they’d appear in the morning with red eyes. They’d been crying. They knew it (their life) was finished.

“I was getting distracted in school, being jack the lad, I didn’t get a good education and was kicked out of college after getting into a fight.

“I started to hang around with gangs, friends who were making money. I was loyal to the wrong people.
“Those people I thought were friends don’t come to see me in prison . You need to drop people like that. These people don’t care, I’m forgotten about. It’s all fake with gangs."

Both Daniels are remorseful for their crimes and are trying to turn their lives around.

They are part of a mentoring scheme that sees them visit detainees in Young Offenders Institutes to offer support and guidance − and also play lead roles in a conflict management project designed to diffuse tensions behind bars.

In Daniel Martin’s video he talks about the pain of missing being a father to his daughter.

He added: “I was up to no good as a teenager. I was proud of being from Handsworth but proud in the wrong way (being in conflict with people from other areas).

“Most of my ‘friends’ back then are dead or in jail now. No-one comes to visit me and I’m locked up for 23 hours a day. 

“I have a 19-year-old daughter and I miss being a father. I’ve missed out on her growing up.

“There are loads of cells here for you if you go down the wrong road."

The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, who funded the project, said: “It’s so important we find new and innovative ways to reach out to young people to prevent them from being drawn into violence. 

“This initiative sees two inmates, convicted for some of the most serious crimes, actually work with the police to get the right message across. 

“I’m delighted the two men agreed to tell their story from behind the prison walls, in order to deter other young people from committing similar crimes.

“There’s a real problem with violence in the West Midlands, and across many other parts of the country, and I hope this video can play its part in helping to keep our young people out of harm’s way."

Audio described versions of these videos are available here and here.

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